Friday, 20 July 2018

An Australian first: take the train to a wine tasting and lunch

As of tomorrow morning visitors to Daylesford can hop on the train to Passing Clouds winery, enjoy tasting, or maybe a meal, and then join the train for a return journey.

As part of a collaboration between Passing Clouds Winery and Spa Country Railway, co-funded by Regional Development Victoria’s Wine Growth Fund, Pasing Clouds now has its own platform just six kilometres down the line from Daylesford.

The Passing Clouds platform at Musk was officially opened on Thursday and the first public train from Daylesford to Passing Clouds will operate on Sunday July 22.

The historic Railmotor will depart from Daylesford Market every Sunday at 9.45am, 11.00am, 12.15pm, 13.45pm 15.00pm, the journey taking approximately 17 minutes to arrive at Passing Clouds platform at Musk then on to Bullarto.

The last train to depart the Passing Clouds platform returning to Daylesford each Sunday will be at 3.18pm.

An exclusive Passing Clouds train+wine+dine package will be on offer every Sunday of the year. For $290 per couple you can leave the car behind, and in an Australian first, travel by train to Passing Clouds and enjoy lunch at the Dining Room inclusive of a glass of sparkling wine on arrival, and4 four-course share plate lunch with matching Passing Clouds wines.

The initiative has been led by Passing Clouds co-owners Cameron and Marion Leith, two go-getters in the Victorian hospitality industry.

“In just two short years since we opened the Dining Room at Passing Clouds, visitation to the estate has increased exponentially and the demand for the small space we had available for cellar door visitors was being pushed to its limits," says Cameron Leith.

"Our new cellar door allows visitors to take in the whole Passing Clouds experience in a fabulous new, modern, inclusive, open space. We couldn’t be happier to know visitors will now get the full experience when they visit us.”

For more general information regarding the Spa Country Railway timetable and fares please see All seating is non-reserved and bookings are not required.

Tickets are available from the ticket office at Daylesford railway station prior to departure. For lunch bookings call (03) 5348 5550.

Up-market accommodation to open on the Bellarine Peninsula

The Bellarine Peninsula will welcome new luxury accommodation when Lon at Port Lonsdale opens on October 5.

The property was previously known as Lonsdale Views. It sits perched on a hill on the edge of Point Lonsdale with 360 degree views of The Heads (the entry to Port Phillip Bay), the lighthouse, Ocean Grove and the Bellarine.

Lonsdale Views was closed in Feb 2017 and has since undergone a complete transformation.

Set on 200 acres of rural and conservation land, Lon features seven luxurious suites and a mineral spa.

The suites are spread throughout the sandstone retreat, each individually designed. Key features Include: mineral water-fed indoor heated pool, private beach access, guest lounge with open fire and ocean views, locally sourced craft furniture, private art gallery and kitchen garden.

Guests are invited to wander the farm tracks with a picnic hamper or savour local delicacies. Local wines, ciders, beers and spirits are available from the honesty bar.

Room rates will range from $360 to $850 per night and a two-night minimum applies. All room rates include access to the mineral pool plus an artisan breakfast hamper supplied by Annie’s Kitchen.

For details see:

New luxury hotel opens in Champagne with eye-watering prices

Champagne has a new luxury hotel but you'll need a Champagne budget to go with your Champagne tastes if you hope to stay at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa

The new hostelry is the Champagne region's first contemporary luxury hotel with entry-level rooms starting at an eye-watering $865 for a king-sized bed and private terrace.

The top tier Josephine suite, meanwhile, will set guests back $1887 a night but you get a sitting room and a balcony overlooking vineyards.

Each of the 49 rooms in the hotel Hermès bath products.

The property, a member of the elite Relaix & Chateaux group,  is set among vineyards in Champillon, near Epernay, and hotel guests will be given exclusive access to Champagne houses that are normally closed to the public. 

Michelin-starred chef Jean-Denis Rieubland, previously at the Negresco in Nice, is in charge of the food. 
Rieubland will work with local seasonal ingredients and plans to develop a vegetable and herb garden on the hotel’s terrace.

The building features the original 19th-century post house where King Charles X of France stopped over before heading to Reims for his coronation.

In 2014 the property was acquired by the Boston-based Champagne Hospitality group, which owns a collection of boutique luxury hotels including Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa in St. Barts and it has been completely revamped.

The spa features nine treatment rooms, an indoor and outdoor pool, a wood-lined yoga studio; a eucalyptus-infused sauna, and a mosaic-tiled hammam.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Australia's other red centre hits the road

Coonawarra is not the easiest region to get to for wine lovers; most of us tend not find ourselves passing through downtown Penola on a regular basis.

That's what makes the annual Coonawarra Roadshow one of the highlights of the wine calendar; the chance to try the new releases from Coonawarra, including fine cabernets, meet the winemakers and chill out in a congenial setting.

Hobart has somehow dropped off the list of venues for 2018 (boo, hiss!) but other major capitals are well catered for.

Here are all the dates (note a change of venue in Melbourne): 

MELBOURNE: Wednesday, August 8, 5-8pm, Meat Market, North Melbourne

SYDNEY: Friday, August 10, 5-8pm, Sydney City Town Hall, Lower Level

BRISBANE: Sunday, August, 12. 2-5pm, Lightspace

ADELAIDE: Friday, Augsut 17, 5-8pm, Published ArtHouse

Sunday, Augsut 19, 2-5pm, Perth City Farm

Tickets are $49 per person, and include unlimited tastings, canapes, and the opportunity to meet the winemakers and owners.

For info phone (08) 8737 2392

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Stroll around Lake Macquarie for an al fresco art experience

The foreshores of Lake Macquarie have been transformed by a new addition to the region's burgeoning art scene. Creative LAKE is a public art and sculpture experience on the water.

Creative LAKE has unveiled unveiled several unique artworks this July including a bronze sky pig, a young monk, a dinghy, a granite hibiscus and 3D graffiti murals.

Each of the artworks can be discovered in popular locations along the Warners Bay, Eleebana, Toronto and Belmont foreshores.

Brought to life by Lake Macquarie City Council and the Commonwealth-funded Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure program, the Creative LAKE trail builds on Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery’s existing Sculpture Park, boosting the number of highly visible outdoor elements on offer to visitors.

Each sculpture is the work of established contemporary artists both from Australia and overseas, with featured artists including Guan Wei, Guy Maestri, Naidee Changmoh and Antone Bruinsma.

Guan Wei has earned an international reputation for large installations that combine imagery from mythology, fantasy, history and the present, drawing upon his experiences of both Chinese and Australian cultures.

Thai ceramic artist Naidee Changmoh is recognised for his cartoon-like monk sculptures which represent positivity, peace and simplicity.

Beach Blossom, inspired by the native hibiscus, was created by NSW-based sculptural artist Antone Bruinsma. A celebration of nature and community, each petal contributes to the beauty of the whole, whilst also respecting individuality.

Guy Maestri is an Archibald Prize-winning contemporary Australian artist who has exhibited internationally. His bronze sculpture Darwin questions our penchant for immortalising the past in sculpture.

On a more playful note, two 3D floor murals were commissioned especially for the foreshores of Belmont and Toronto by a team of artists led by Scott Jansen.

"The Creative LAKE exhibition will help visitors discover public art in surprising places, from sculptures to 3D murals to virtual reality," said Jacqui Hemsley, director of Creative LAKE. “We’re setting the standard for the future of creative experiences and public urban art projects in the Lake Macquarie region."

For more information on what Lake Macquarie has to offer, visit

There was an incident at our destination, so we'd better cancel our holiday

Travel operators in Phuket are reporting thousands of cancellations following a recent tour boat sinking that saw 47 people die. 

The sinking was a one-off, yet thousands of would-be vacationers were scared enough to change their holiday plans.

I doubt anyone would cancel a holiday because of a bus crash. 

Other tourists, meanwhile, are stupid enough to get close enough to active volcanoes so that molten lava hits their boat, or to fly when there is a major risk of flight cancellations leaving them stranded. 

People are strange; no doubt about it. 

Kongsak Kupongsakorn, president of the Southern Hoteliers' Association, told Thai media that 19 member hotels have reported cancellations and an estimated 7,300 Phuket room bookings for July and August have been cancelled by Chinese customers.

Chiaya Rapuepol, president of the Andaman Sea tourism business association, estimates the fallout could hit Phuket by as much as $1 billion in lost business. 

One has to wonder why the tourists don't simply avoid tour boats if they are scared of a repeat sinking. Easy to do. And a lot easier than re-booking an entire holiday.  

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Singapore Airlines and AirAsia take Skytrax honours

Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and AirAsia were the big winners at the respected Skytrax World Airline Awards announced overnight in London.

Singapore won best overall airline for the first time in 10 years and edged out last year's winner, Qatar Airways, for the top spot.

"We're ecstatic," Yeoh Phee Teik, Singapore's senior vice president of customer experience, told CNN after his carrier also took out best first class, best airline in Asia and best first-class seat.
Qatar, a four-time winner, won best business class, best airline in the Middle East and best business class seat.
Asian airlines dominated the list, with seven of the top 10 coming from the region. Lufthansa was the only European airline to make the list and US airlines failed to earn a single award.

The results are based on surveys of more than 20 million travellers, who rated more than 335 airlines they flew between August 2017 and May 2018.

Third place went to Japan's All Nippon Airways, fourth to Emirates, fifth to Taiwan's EVA Air and sixth to Cathay Pacific. Lufthansa was sevenths ahead of China's Hainan Airlines in eighth, Garuda Indonesia ninth and Thai Airways in 10th.

Qantas climbed from 15th last year to 11th but is no longer a serous contender, while Virgin Australia plummeted from 13th place in 2017 to 22nd this year (the judges were probably sick of eating 60 grams of dried biscuit as a snack).

Qantas was successful in the Australia-Pacific region, taking out best airline, best first class, best business class, best economy class and best staff.

Malyasia-based AirAsia (one of my personal favourites) was named world's best low-cost airline for the 10th year in a row.

As part of its celebrations, AirAsia will be offering special low fares from July 23-29 on and AirAsia mobile app.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Tired of paying solo cruise supplements? At last, a solution.

Solo travellers often get asked to share rooms or a cabins with complete strangers, or are forced to pay hefty single supplements. 

Riviera Travel has come to the rescue of solo voyagers by increasing its solo-river cruise offering for 2019. All cabins covered the by deal are for sole occupancy with no single supplement – potentially saving saving customers thousands of dollars. 

The British-based river cruise company has added four European river cruise itineraries reserved exclusively for solo travellers.

* A seven-night, round-trip cruise from Porto along the Douro River in Portugal from March 31, 2019
* Two seven-night, round-trip cruises from Budapest on the Danube River departing April 1 and October 28, 2019
* A seven-night cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers from Lyon to Avignon in France on October 31, 2019.

The two spring sailings next March and April will coincide with the start of the summer cruise season.

Riviera Travel’s International Sales Manager, Thomas Morgan, said solo cruises address a gap in the market for people who wish to enjoy a river cruise but are travelling on their own or simply prefer to have a cabin to themselves.

“We know solo travellers enjoy our river cruises and to meet growing demand, we have upped the number of cruise itineraries exclusively for solo travellers to four in 2019,” Morgan said. “Our five-star ships provide the perfect base and our itineraries offer opportunities to share wonderful experiences with like-minded travellers. 

"The cruises have been planned for spring and autumn, 2019, when the destinations visited will be more relaxed so customers don’t have to jostle with the summer crowds They can choose any cabin or suite on each ship and there will be no additional single supplement to pay whatsoever.”

Fares start at $2769, are subject to availability and include daily visits and guided excursions, all on-board meals, wifi and the services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and tour manager.

For general information on Riviera Travel’s river cruises, visit

New accommodation option for visitors to Brisbane

Visitors to Brisbane have a new accommodation option in the heart of the city with TFE Hotels opening the new Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane, which features sweeping views over the Brisbane River. 

On the corner of George and Elizabeth streets in the city centre, the new hotel is housed in a restored Heritage-listed building that was opened in 1922 to house the Queensland Government Savings Bank. 
Several original features have been retained and the hotel now offers 220 luxurious rooms and suites, and includes an extra five levels designed to complement the historic building. Some will love the juxtaposition of old and new; others will hate it. 
The banking hall has been transformed to accommodate a new hotel lobby and restaurant, with a bar below. The lobby celebrates the building's 1920s origins. 
Facilities include a gym alongside a heated pool on the ground floor, which is enclosed on each side but open to the Brisbane sky. 
TFE Hotels chairman Allan Vidor said: “The hotel creates a real point of difference for the Brisbane market with its magnificent sense of history, and its wonderful setting, just a few steps from the waterfront and close to the heart of the city. 
"This will be a flagship for the Adina brand, which has developed since its beginnings in Sydney in 1982 into a collection of apartment hotels in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.”
The apartments are described as "spacious and contemporary". Each has its own kitchen, laundry and living room with full hotel services including 24-hour reception. 

The ground floor restaurant, Donna Chang (the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Seinfeld episode and far too clever by half) will open soon. It is described as a “dining experience for the senses” with Sichuan and Cantonese flavours. 
Below the restaurant will be a 250-seat bar called Boom Boom Room.
Rooms are currently available at the 25% off introductory rate, starting from $135.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Queensland Wine Show result sparks a controversy

Are wine shows designed to help consumers discover excellent wines, to "improve the breed" or to help boost the morale of winemakers in an emerging region? 

That question was bought into focus by the results of the Royal Queensland Wine Show released over the weekend. 

The wine at the centre of much social media attention was the Symphony Hills Wines 2017 Gewurztraminer. 

This wine was named The Courier-Mail Best Queensland Wine of Show "for the best Queensland wine made and produced in Queensland by a Queensland winery ". 

There was only one problem. The grapes used for the wine came from New England in New South Wales. 

What does it say about the Queensland wine industry that the wine judged the best in the state is made from grapes grown in another state? A slap in the face for Queensland viticulturists? 

The problem for chief judge David Bicknell and his team was that no Queensland wines won a trophy, or gold medal, at the show. Although it should be pointed out that several leading Queensland producers do not enter.

Either way, it does not seem that the show committee are being totally open and honest with consumers reading their results catalogue. 

Chief judge Bicknell said on Twitter: "The elephant in the room - no gold-medal-winning wines grown in Queensland. One outstanding wine from a local producer. As an emerging area, better to focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative?"

Vastly experienced wine show judge Iain Riggs agreed, saying: "Give recognition where due. Don't think any subterfuge intended in results."

But Peter McGlashan, winemaker at leading Queensland winery Ridgemill Estate, clearly thought no trophy should have been awarded if there was not a good enough wine from Queensland. 

"I worry it sends the wrong message about our GIs (geographic indictators)," McGlashan said on Twitter. "It is awesome to have multi-regional wineries in our area, and the great wine they produce. But those wine, according to the Label Integrity Program, are not Queensland wine.

"Hence the issue is not with the wine but with how the award is awarded by the show society."

The wine at the centre of the controversy, should you be tempted, retails for $45.

Friday, 13 July 2018

TCA-free corks coming soon, Amorim says

Haven't we heard all this before? 

The head of the world’s largest cork manufacturer, Antonio Amorim, says that his Portuguese company will have achieved the total eradication of cork taint across the billions of corks it produces by 2020.

“We will have a non-detectible TCA guarantee for everything, it’s in our company strategy for 2020; we are working as fast as ever,” he told The Drinks Business.

Amorim said that he is financing research and development that will eradicate TCA from all Amorim natural cork stoppers. The news just comes a couple of hundred years too late.

“We don’t want to segregate corks that are contaminated, we want to eliminate TCA – that’s what we are planning with our new technology, and we believe it is possible,” he said.

Amorim said he has been testing such technology over the past 12 months, noting that initial results were “very positive”. 

“But we are not here to minimise TCA; we are here to eradicate it.”

Amorim sold 5.4 billion corks in 2017 but New World producers are increasingly preferring screw caps to natural cork as a closure for their wines. 

Special wine release marks 90th birthday for De Bortoli family

The De Bortoli family is releasing a very special wine to make the 90th anniversary of its involvement in the the wine industry.

The milestone will be marked by a limited edition of Black Noble, the world’s only fortified made from botrytis grapes.

Black Noble was first created De Bortoli managing director Darren De Bortoli in 1998 in the NSW Riverina region, inspired by a wine his grandfather - and company founder - Vittorio De Bortoli produced in the 1930s.

Black Noble is crafted from the same botrytised semillon grapes harvested for the company's iconic Noble One stickie, which was developed by Darren and his father Deen in 1982.

The limited edition Black Noble is crafted from parcels of wine with an average blended age of 20 years in barrels.

"We have been setting aside portions of these parcels since 1982, with a selection of exceptional quality blended to deliver structure, strength and complexity in this limited edition," says Darren De Bortoli.

"A little fermentation occurs before fortification when a grape spirit is added to inhibit further fermentation. The wine is then clarified, and a touch of brandy is added for extra complexity before being transferred into used Noble One barriques."

The 90th Anniversary limited-edition Black Noble is presented in an elegant bottle and gift box, each marked with its own serial number.

Every staff member at De Bortoli will be presented with a bottle, or it can be purchased for, you guessed it, $90, at leading liquor outlets across Australia.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

British publican misreads the public mood about Trump

A British publican appears to have badly misread the mood of his customers after renaming his London establishment The Trump Arms to mark the visit of US president Donald Trump. 

With protesters marching on the US embassy to protest Trump’s visit to Britain and a general dislike of the bombastic politician, the former The Jameson pub in Hammersmith, West London, suffered a backlash. 

It received a barrage of negative reviews on its Facebook page after it emerged that the pub would change its name and throw a welcome party on Tuesday for the presidential visit.

Damien Smyth, the pub’s Irish landlord, told the London Evening Standard that he wanted to show Trump that, despite widespread protests and a giant Trump baby balloon flying over the Houses of Commons, he had support in the capital.

The pub describes itself as a “traditional” British establishment on TripAdvisor. 

“I’ll never set foot in this pub again,” said one reviewer, who used the name Rose Garden, who added the place “stinks of p*ss”.

“Horrible place and becoming a favourite with racist misogynists,” Jack Adkins added.

The strange story of Benoni, the princess and the pugilists

When Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco is not living an alluring lifestyle with Prince Albert and the glitterati of the principality, she can sometimes be found hanging out in a decidedly uncool former mining town outside Johannesburg.

Princess Charlene grew up in Benoni, a city known for its mine dumps, many lakes and a shopping centre built as a replica of a Mississippi paddle steamer. It is home to just 160,000 people, fewer than Cairns in Australia.

Princess Charlene in Benoni this week. Pic: Benoni City Times

Benoni, bizarrely, is also the home town of some of the most beautiful and talented women on the planet; and the home of several world-class sportsmen.

Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron was born and grew up in Benoni, while Princess Charlene, the former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, went to school here and has several family members who are still residents. 

Australian television star Jessica Marais, who starred in US TV series Magic City, was also a Benoni girl, as is multiple award-winning Afro-Soul singer Lira.

New Zealand-based comedian Urzila Carlson is another ex Benonian, having worked at the local paper, the Benoni City Times, founded in 1921.

Also born in Benoni: Grace Ntombizodwa Mugabe, the second wife of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and First Lady of Zimbabwe from 1996 until his resignation in November 2017.

Benoni's a fairly tough place, but has produced more than its fair share of boxing champions, dating back to Vic Toweel the former undisputed world bantamweight champion in the 1950s - known as "the Benoni buzzsaw" - to more recent world champion pugilists Brian Mitchell and Philip Holiday (who once beat triple world champ Jeff Fenech).

Former world heavyweight Gerrie Coetzee is from down the road in Boksburg and is often seen in Benoni.

One of Benoni's many mine dumps

Springbok rugby star Bryan Habana is also from Benoni, as were former Bafana Bafana soccer internationals Pollen Ndlanya and Rowen Fernandez, who started his career at Benoni Northerns. The late former South African wicket keeper Denis Lindsay ran a sports store in town.

Princess Charlene is in Benoni this week; set to mark Nelson Mandela Day (July 18) with visits to local orphanages as part of her charitable work.

“It’s always great to come back home," she said. "I always found that in my life swimming gave me an opportunity to travel the world. I always felt responsible and a need to give back to my country and give back to those who are less fortunate."

Prince Albert visited Benoni in 2015, having lunch with members of his wife's family at a popular local Irish pub, McGinty’s.

PS: Leading Australian travel writer Catherine Marshall and yours truly both went to Benoni High School and I started my career on the Benoni City Times - hence my interest  


New heritage hotel to open in Hobart

It has been a private mansion, a hostel, a girls’ school and a Salvation Army headquarters. Now Maylands Lodge in Hobart is being readied for its opening as a luxury heritage hotel.

The historic property Maylands was built in 1887 and was designed by renowned Tasmanian colonial architect Henry Hunter. It is located in New Town, just north of the Hobart CBD, and will provide accommodation for visitors looking for a unique Tasmanian experience. 

This heritage gem is scheduled to open as luxury accommodation in August after an 18-month restoration project. 

“It is absolutely wonderful to see this iconic building come back to life,” Maylands Lodge general manager Gareth Hinds told Brand Tasmania. "It really is a hidden Tasmanian gem.”

Encompassing three levels of Victorian Italianate grandeur over 1000m2, Maylands Lodge has a sweeping staircase hand-crafted from Baltic pine, Huon pine and blackwood; wide floorboards made from New Zealand Cowrie pine; towering stained-glass windows; and wrap-around balconies that look down over the city.

The property was purchased in 2016 by the Gardiner family, who have a building background.

“This is very much a family affair and we have all been working really hard together over the last 18 months to restore Maylands,” Alan Gardiner said. “Our built heritage is such an important part of Hobart, and that includes incredible properties like Maylands. Bringing them back to life is also very important for our growing tourism industry."

Maylands Lodge will be ready to receive guests in mid-August, offering 12 rooms.

Set on more than half a hectare it will also have a large potager, giving guests a garden-to-plate dining experience in the intimate restaurant.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Melbourne entertainment icon set to make a return

One of Melbourne' iconic entertainment venues is about to be re-born three years after it closed its doors.

St Kilda’s much-loved Hotel Esplanade will reopen this November, when leading hospitality group Sand Hill Road unveils its redevelopment of the seaside icon.

The Espy will be home to a range of lifestyle experiences and offer new dining, drinking and cultural destinations to Melbourne.

Andy Mullins, a Sand Hill Road director, fondly recalls what the previous owners told them the day the sale went through.

“They said that we might have bought The Espy, but we’d never really own it. It belongs to the people of Melbourne. We have always loved the pub, but we know that it holds a special place in many different hearts for many different reasons. There’s no other pub like it in Australia.”

The 140-year-old St Kilda landmark will employ up to 300 people when it reopens.

One of the most noticeable changes will be the size of the venue, with parts of the building people never knew existed opening up.

Visitors who remember the Espy as two levels will now be able to journey from the basement stage and iconic public bar to the expansive main bar, garden terrace overlooking St Kilda Pier, Gershwin Room, a fast-paced casual dining kitchen, Mya Tiger (a Cantonese restaurant with accompanying cocktail bar) and The Ghost of Alfred Felton (a sophisticated cocktail bar on the top floor).

Sand Hill Road’s vision is ultimately to create a pub where all Melburnians feel at home.

“We’re not trying to please one market, that’s not The Espy," says Mullins. "We’re going all out to create a world-class cocktail bar, and then only 27 stairs away have 800 people looking out to the ocean, drinking beers and smashing pizzas or heading into a gig at one of the stages inside. 

"Different types of people, there for different reasons, day and night. That’s always been The Espy - a melting pot of Melbourne”.

The Espy’s food offering will be led by executive chef Ash Hicks, while drinks will be curated by Kevin Peters and group sommelier Matt Skinner.

Hotel Esplanade is at 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda.

Special hotel deal for Sydney theatre-goers

There is nothing worse than having to scramble to be out of your hotel room by the check-out deadline after a big night out eating, clubbing or perhaps at the theatre. 

That's why a special package offered by the Metro Hotel Marlow Sydney Central is going to be a hit with visitors in Sydney to see Priscilla – Queen of the Desert at the Capitol Theatre until July 21. 

First the accommodation is located directly opposite the venue - and secondly it includes a noon check-out. 

The Capitol Theatre Package is also available for other upcoming shows including Swan Lake on Ice (July 25-29, Stomp (July 31-August 5), Irish Celtic (August 7-12) and Jersey Boys (from August 29).

Metro Hotel Marlow Sydney Central’s Capitol Theatre Package starts from $175 and includes one night’s accommodation in a superior queen room, hot buffet breakfast for two adults and a noon check-out. Terrific value in a city where breakfast can easily cost $30 or more. 

Show tickets are not included in this package and are subject to availability and valid for duration of the show. 

To book the Capitol Theatre Package visit or call the toll free Central Reservations line on 1800 004 321.

Metro Hotel Marlow Sydney Central offers 220 superior and deluxe rooms on 10 floors. The rooftop pool area and restaurant terrace provide guests with added areas in which to relax.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

New Victorian winery hotel joins the Accor group

The recently opened Mitchelton Hotel & Spa, a $16 million hotel on the banks of the Goulburn Valley in Victoria, has joined AccorHotels' boutique MGallery by Sofitel network.

Located within the spectacular surrounds of Mitchelton wine estate, the 58-room hotel boasts a four-treatment room day spa, restaurant, a 20-metre lap pool and extensive banquet and meeting facilities.

Designed by award-winning architects Hecker Guthrie, the hotel's interiors complement the property's existing Robin Boyd structures. All guestrooms boast floor-to-ceiling windows with views of either the Goulburn River or the vineyards.

Chief Operating Officer of AccorHotels Pacific, Simon McGrath, said the group was thrilled to be adding to its boutique hotel collection.

“The Mitchelton Hotel & Spa is a beautiful property on spectacular grounds and we are thrilled to be welcoming the hotel into our network; it will be the 10th MGallery by Sofitel hotel in Australia," he said.

“There is a lot to see in the Goulburn Valley region and with the addition of such a quality hotel it will no doubt help attract more visitors to the region, boost local tourism and support the domestic travel market.
"The Ryan family has done a wonderful job of transforming the property into a thriving food, wine and hospitality destination. The hotel will be a special addition to our network and we look forward to welcoming guests.”

Andrew Ryan, managing director of the Mitchelton property, said, “The Hotel and Day Spa is something that we wanted to develop early on with our acquisition of the estate.

“It has always been the missing piece in the puzzle for Mitchelton. Goulburn Valley and Nagambie have so much to offer, we have high hopes that the addition of the accommodation facility will help attract more visitors to the region and boost local tourism.”

The Mitchelton Hotel & Spa is the 10th MGallery by Sofitel hotel in Australia and joins other iconic properties such as Hotel Lindrum, The Como Melbourne, Elements of Byron, Harbour Rocks Hotel, The Reef House Resort & Spa Palm Cove, Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, Mount Lofty House in the Adelaide Hills and the Playford Adelaide.

For more information, head to

Monday, 9 July 2018

That delicious French rosé might just be from Spain

You remember that cheeky glass of delicious dry French rosé wine you enjoyed over summer? It might well have come from Spain.

French authorities have uncovered millions of bottles of rosé imported in bulk from Spain being passed off as French, with at least one producer facing prison and fines of up to €300,000, The Drinks Business reports.

The rosé was falsely labelled as ‘Vin de France’ (French table wine).

A two-year investigation by the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Controls (DGCCRF) revealed that wines being imported into France, mainly from Spain, were not being properly labelled.

Announcing its findings, the DGCCRF said it had detected numerous instances of fraud in relation to around 34,000 hectolitres of wine – the equivalent of around five million bottles.

Nearly 17,000 bottles have already been removed from the shelves of one retailer, while commercial fraud charges have been lodged with the maximum penalty for charges of “deceptive commercial practice” two years in prison and fines of €300,000, which can be increased to 10% of the annual average turnover in proportion to the benefits gained from the breach.

“A total of 179 establishments were audited in 2016 and 564 in 2017, specifically on the subject of foreign wines,” it stated. “Twenty-two per cent of the establishments visited in 2016 and 15% of the establishments visited in 2017 were subject to non-conformities ranging from confusing to ‘Francification’, the latter being an offence that is the subject of criminal penalties.”

While the investigation initially targeted wine importers, it was later extended to include distribution companies, as well as the on- and off-trade.

The vast majority of wines checked were labelled correctly, for example as “Vin de Espagne” or “Vin de la Communauté Européenne” (VCE) when they are blended with wines from other countries of the European Union.

Those facing charges have not yet been identified.

Americans fear confusion between a burger chain and a pub rock band

It is well known that Americans are easily confused. They elected a moron as president and many of them are bewildered to discover Australia and Austria are not the same country.

Now an American fast food chain is risking making a global laughing stock of itself by claiming that its customers are likely to be unable to differentiate between their burgers and pub rock band from Wollongong in Australia.

The fast food chain is called Ruby Tuesday, having taken its name from a Rolling Stones song from the 1960s. The band is known as Ruby Tuesdays, having taken its name from the same Rolling Stones song, which was also a hit for Melanie Safka.

The band; not be confused with a burger chain 

Ruby Tuesday, the restaurant chain, has been operating since 1972 without anyone getting it confused with the song of the same name. But it fears burger lovers will get it mixed up with an obscure band from the other side of the globe.

Ruby Tuesdays is a five-piece rock/funk fusion band formed last year. Now the 540-strong restaurant chain has issued legal proceedings demanding the band surrender its name and destroy all its merchandise, citing international copyright law.

The Illawarra Mercury newspaper reported that guitarist Shaun Snider received a notice of infringement from San Diego-based law firm Mintz Levin last month, calling on the band to transfer its web domain to “our client” and “compensate Ruby Tuesday for past sales”.

“While many artists pay tribute to other artists through imitation, when it comes to imitating famous trademarks, only Ruby Tuesday is entitled to the goodwill of its mark,” the letter read.

Which conveniently ignores the fact that Ruby Tuesday does not even have any eateries in Australia.

Snider told the newspaper the band had since taken legal advice and had responded to the notice, refusing to surrender its name.

“The nature of trademark is that you’re trying to sell something similar under the guise that it’s [the same thing],” he said.

“It’s ridiculous that someone would rock up to a gig in Wollongong under the guise that they were going to get a burger. That’s what they’re trying to sue us over. It’s just that silly."

I wonder if the litigious Americans are aware of another Ruby Tuesday, a five-piece covers band, based in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, or Ruby Tuesday Consulting in London WCE2, or even Rugby Tuesday at St Marie's Catholic Primary School.

I hope Ruby Tuesday nail salon in Aberdeen, Scotland, are not quaking in their boots. 

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Sydney tourism attraction closed after death plunges

One of Sydney's major tourism attractions has been closed "until further notice" following the death of a man who fatally plunged 258 metres from the Sydney Tower Eye on Sunday evening.
Sydney Tower Eye

It was the second such death this year at the tallest building in the city, which is also known as Centrepoint Tower.

Tower's operator Merlin Entertainment closed the attraction for a month and undertook a safety review after a woman died in March, but the man also died after the tower reopened with police deeming his death "self harm".

The Skywalk will remain closed for at least a week, company director Rob Smith told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Merlin Entertainment also runs Madame Tussauds in Sydney, Sea Life Aquarium and ski resorts Falls Creek and Mount Hotham.

Albury-Wodonga gets a brand new branded hotel

The booming Albury-Wodonga region between Sydney and Melbourne has a new hotel with the Mantra Albury Hotel officially opening its doors this week.

Mantra Group’s executive director of operations Mark Hodge and Albury Mayor Kevin Mack cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening.

The first hotel to open in Albury in more than three years, Mantra Albury took 18 months to build and is in a convenient location in the Albury CBD.

The $40 million development comprises of eight levels of accommodation with 146 one- and two-bedroom studios and suites with views to the Bogong High Plains and snow-capped Victorian Alps.

Mantra Albury Hotel

Amenities at Mantra Albury Hotel include a restaurant and bar called La Tierra, 24-hour reception, an internet lounge, a gymnasium, conferencing and events facilities that can cater for more than 200 people, and an exclusive Sky Lounge available to hire on the top floor with sky lighting, wet bar and comfortable lounge seating.

For all-day and in-room dining options, the property’s on-site restaurant La Tierra is located on the ground floor, and is open to hotel guests and the general public for breakfast, lunch and dinner and features a range of tapas-style Mediterranean meal options.

To celebrate the official opening, Mantra Albury has launched a special deal valid for travel until the end of July. Stay in a Studio Room from $129 per night and receive 1GB free wifi each day, a drink voucher on arrival and a noon late check-out.

To book, call 1300 987 600 or visit

Friday, 6 July 2018

Craft brewing booms on Queensland's Sunshine Coast

Craft beer has brewed up a new market niche for Sunshine Coast’s tourism sector, with its emerging profile recognised officially when beachside Moffat Beach Brewing Co won the Champion Small Brewer of Australia award at the annual BrewCon - Australian Brewers Conference Awards - held in Sydney.

Moffatt Beach Brewing Co.

Moffatt Beach Brewing also took home two gold medals, as did Maleny-based Brouhaha. There were silvers for Macleod Brewing Co in Maleny, Sunshine Brewery and Land & Sea in Noosa.

Sunshine Coast Craft Beer Tours’ expert Josh Donohoe said that the Sunshine Coast craft brewing scene had expanded dramatically over the past three years and had become an increasingly important attraction for Sunshine Coast holiday-goers.

“One of the most interesting sessions at BrewCon was the ‘Will Travel for Beer’ section, because it highlighted how craft beer can add a distinct taste to a region’s tourism offer, and complement the destination’s other food and natural attractions,” he said.

“The Sunshine Coast’s craft breweries can be found in picturesque locations along the coast and in the Hinterland, and because they are now considered among the best in Australia they have become an attraction in their own right with our scheduled tour numbers growing 150% over the past 12 months, and our private tours tripling in numbers over the same period.

“The growth in organised craft beer tours reflects the growth in craft breweries operating in the region. When we began tours in 2016 there were just three on-site breweries operating. Today, we have 12 who brew on site, and we now offer five different tour options covering the Hinterland and coast from south to north.

“What makes beer tourism so attractive for visitors is that it provides a really rich and interesting insight into the character of the destination. Brewers are invariably passionate about their trade and love sharing stories about the trials and tribulations of setting up a brewery and the sweat and tears that go into every brew, as well as sharing experimental and seasonal beers with visitors. Wine tourism is already well established in Australia, but craft beer tourism has just as much potential.

“The craft brewers are now offering far more sophisticated hospitality options, with breweries like Brouhaha and Copperhead Restaurant & Brewery also offering highly-acclaimed dining to complement their range of beers.

“The breweries are now an integral component of the Sunshine Coast food and produce scene, with many brewers building close working relationships with local farmers, not just for disposal of spent grain for cattle, but for sourcing local fruit and produce for seasonal beers or to serve through their kitchens.

“Besides dedicated craft beer tours, more and more local restaurants and bars are showcasing Sunshine Coast beers, and interest in beer has grown to the point that our first-ever Craft Beer Festival last year attracted over 3500 visitors.”

Brouhaha at Maleny

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford said that food, wine and beer were a major focus of the region’s tourism marketing, with the Sunshine Coast one of Australia’s richest agricultural producers.

“The Sunshine Coast’s tagline ‘Naturally Refreshing’ perfectly reflects the sort of craft beers being produced by the remarkably talented group of brewers across the Coast,” Latchford said.

“Food and wine tourism are already well-established as prime drivers of tourism around the world, and craft beer is now emerging as an equally dynamic growth sector, with the more casual nature and ‘earthiness’ of the product matched by high-quality and very distinctive varietal beers.”

Further information on craft brewery tours of the Sunshine Coast see:

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Farewell to Australian regional airline JetGo

Struggling Australian regional airline JetGo is no more after the Supreme Court ruled that the company should be wound up.
The airline entered voluntary administration last month after grounding all passenger flights. It utilised Brazilian-made Embraer jets. 
JetGo flights were used largely by FIFO workers and serviced cities including Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Albury Townsville, Karratha, Wollongong and other regional centres. Its Melbourne flights used Essendon Airport. 
The court action was brought by Dubbo Regional Council which claimed JetGo owed "significant outstanding fees" and there was no realistic proposal for payment.
"Dubbo Regional Council acted in the best interests of our community in this process and will continue to focus on stabilising airline services for our regional community," it said.

"Unfortunately our community, along with many other communities and businesses, have been financially impacted by this business failure.

"This action was further validated by the creditors report released on June 29 that concluded JetGo was hopelessly insolvent and that the business had failed because of poor strategic management of cash flow, and inability to generate cash flow to pay its debts," it added.

Several other councils which fund regional airports also said JetGo had failed to pay fees.

Shellharbour City Council and the City of Karratha are among those still owed money.

A report to creditors issued this week said the airline may have been trading at a loss for the last two years.

Meet Sydney's new "must do" gourmet experience

The Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney is taking high tea to new heights with the launch of a new high tea buffet by renowned patissier Anna Polyviou that it boasts offers the best views in Sydney from Blu Bar on level 36.

Polyviou is known as the Punk Princess of Pastry and will be combining savoury morsels and sweet treats in her distinctive style.

Guests will be seated on plush velvet lounges and will enjoy free-flowing teapot cocktails created by Blu Bar on 36's mixologists, including Passion Tea-quila and Pink Panther, a Mohawk concoction reflecting Polyviou's hot pink hair.

“Blu Bar High Tea is a glamorous, colourful and delicious romp, with epic views of the city and harbour as a spectacular backdrop,” said the executive pastry chef.

“Everything's been specially selected to reflect the bar and my style, from the buffet stands in my signature colours, through to the sleek glassware, teapots and cutlery.”

Dessert aficionados will savour a dazzling new menu, including Pina-Colada (coconut, pineapple, lemongrass and Malibu), Popping (caramel, pop-corn, chocolate) and Strawberries 'n' Crème (strawberry, mascarpone, vanilla).

Treats with a view

Polyviou's take on traditional high tea favourites will feature savoury dishes like Egg (egg, mayo, watercress), Salad (goat's cheese, vegetables, olive oil) and Quiche (roast vegetable and Lorraine).

The Blu Bar High Tea buffet is available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 11:30am-1:30pm and from 1:45-3:45pm on level 36. 

It is priced at $75 per person on Friday and Saturday, and $95 per person on Sunday.

On arrival, guests enjoy a glass of sparkling wine on Friday and Saturday, a glass of Champagne on Sunday, and free-flowing teapot cocktails during each seating.

For more information call (02) 9250 6000 or visit