Sunday, 5 April 2020

Five travel destinations that I happily avoid

One thing you will rarely see in a newspaper or travel magazine is a piece that is critical of a destination, be it a city, country or merely a resort.  

Newspapers, magazines and TV networks rely on advertising to keep going. So you simply are not going to see stories saying how awful it is to go ocean cruising, or how the people in Marseille are rude and dismissive of tourists. 

Such stories would not help generate advertising - and that's the bottom line. 

The world is full of magical places. Whether you love food and wine, arts and culture or action-packed adventure holidays there is somewhere that will delight and thrill. I will often review them right here. 

Here, however, are five that I do not need to visit again. Ever. Just my personal experiences. 

In theory I should love Marseille. I adore France, speak the language and lived in France for several years. But while the port city of Marseille can be visually appealing in parts, it is the locals that let it down. The city is often described as gritty - like its inhabitants. Try getting decent service in one of those delightful waterfront eateries; you've got more chance of being mugged at night or coming across a street corner drug deal. Marseille was described in a news story in The Guardian as "corrupt, dangerous and brutal to its poor". Districts like the quartiers nord are more dangerous than Soweto was in its brutal heyday. Head inland to St Remy de Provence or Avignon instead.

Marseille: Not as lovely as it looks

Rio de Janeiro
The biggest city in Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup final and 2016 Olympic Games and while it has probably improved, I remember it from years ago as a poverty-stricken dump full of dodgy characters where you need to have eyes in the back of your head at all times. I had my jeans stolen from underneath my towel on Copacabana Beach after I sat up to show my watch to someone who had asked me the time. I had street kids spray liquid on my shoes so they could "clean" them for me. The massive shanty towns, or favelas, sit right above some of the most acclaimed beaches - and the residents need money to survive, so scams/crimes are frequent. Well worth avoiding. 

While cities in many other former Eastern European nations have emerged as tourism hot spots, you'll rarely hear of anyone recommending the Romanian capital for a romantic weekend, or as a gourmet destination. While Prague, several cities in Poland and many in the former Yugoslavia have blossomedBucharest remains firmly behind the eight-ball. No surprise. When I visited during the Ceaucescu era I found it a bleak, dismal sort of place - a grey, concrete sprawl with unsmiling denizens. As a western journalist - covering sports, not politics - I was followed everywhere by blank-eyed secret police types. I can't think of a single reason to go back. 

Tel Aviv
I'm immediately wary of anyone who considers themselves to be chosen by God above others. The Israelis, however, extend their superiority theories to their everyday behaviour. They love pushing and shoving. Stand in a bus queue in Tel Aviv and it will disintegrate into a mad brawling scrum the moment the bus arrives. And Tel Aviv's international hotels follow kosher rules, which means that if you enjoy a burger and a milkshake you are out of luck - unless you want to consume them separately. Imagine the Irish insisting you must eat fish because it is Friday? The Israeli rabbinate mandates no fewer than 68 guidelines of kashrut (dietary laws).  And whatever you do don't mention Palestinian rights. If you enjoy visiting cities where the locals are bolshie and there are machine-gun toting military everywhere then Tel Aviv will be right up your street.

Naples often described as edgy - which is being kind. It is surrounded by various attractions but is best avoided unless you are in the company of a local. It's a dirty, scruffy place with bag snatching one of the most popular local sports. Pickpockets abound - there are signs on all public transport warning against them - and when it gets dark some very shady characters come out to play.The Neapolitans love to dump their garbage in the streets and the city is home to the Camorra, a Mafia-style secret crime society. With so many other fantastic destinations in Italy, why would you bother unless you are visiting purely for pizza? 

No doubt many of you will love some of these cities and feel I'm a bigot or trotting out stereotypes. I'm just calling it as I saw it. Feel free to disagree - or offer your own selections. 

# This is an updated version of a story from several years ago. 

Saturday, 4 April 2020

One of the world's grandest hotels is closing for two years

One of the world's greatest hotels is closing its doors for two years - and will emerge with a new look and a new name.

The InterContinental Hong Kong will close on April 20, 2020, before reopening as Regent Hong Kong in 2022. Sadly, 500 jobs will be lost.

The hotel is planning a spectacular transformation that will position it as one of the top hotels not only in Asia but also as one of the world's most iconic hotels.

The total transformation will span all guest rooms and suites including bathrooms, all public areas, restaurants and event venues, as well as a refresh of the building façade with a contemporary new look.

Yan Toh Heen, the hotel's one-Michelin star Cantonese restaurant, will remain open throughout the renovation, with access via the adjoining K11 Musea.

Goodwin Gaw, Chairman and Managing Principal of Gaw Capital Partners, which led the acquisition of the hotel in 2015 on behalf of a consortium of investors, said: “We are thrilled to work with Chi Wing Lo, who has over 30 years of experience in the United States, Greece and Italy.

"His designs combine superb craftsmanship and ingenuity with innovative use of materials and a unique and timeless aesthetic. He is now exclusively devoting his time to the design creation and return of the legendary Regent Hong Kong.”

Gaw continued: “On behalf of the owning companies, we are committed to returning the property back to its glory days as one of the most prestigious hotels in the world. Following this exciting transformation and re-branding, the hotel will once again become an iconic flagship property for Regent Hotels & Resorts and a jewel of Hong Kong.”

InterContinental Hong Kong holds a coveted five-star rating from the Forbes Travel Guide.

It is famous for its panoramic views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong's skyline.

The 503-room hotel opened in 1980 as The Regent Hong Kong but was re-branded to InterContinental Hong Kong in June 2001 as the Asia-Pacific flagship property for IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group).

Two-thirds of the 503 guest rooms, including all 87 suites, have harbour views.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Explore Tasmania from the skies; while sitting at home

How about taking a scenic flight over Tasmania without leaving the comfort of your lounge room? 

Shannon Wells, managing director of Airlines of Tasmania, has posted several “virtual” scenic flights over Tasmania’s now-closed national parks on YouTube.

His Par Avion airline was founded in 1978 and is the Australian island state's primary transport airline. 

Join him until you can make it to Tasmania to see for yourself. 

See or visit

"I'm an exception". A nation afflicted by moronavirus

In Adelaide, a wine industry colleague reports seeing a woman sneeze directly onto the handlebars of her supermarket trolley. 

In Hobart, a friend of a friend sees seven young blokes having a kickabout in a park before all climbing in the same car. When he remonstrates with them they give him a gobful. 

In Canberra, a political journalist is incensed when she is told she shouldn't allow her daughter to play basketball with a friend in the local park. 

On the Mornington Peninsula, there is anger when a skate board park is closed down. 

In my street, three or four local blokes still gather together each night for a few beers. 

On the TV people who ignored multiple Government warnings to come home to Australia from overseas or face being isolated complain about the quality of the hotel accommodation they have been given. 

One gives the excuse they continued with their cruise because they would not have been given a refund.

On the radio there is a woman saying her mother has dementia so should be allowed into an aged care home to care for her when it is in lockdown. 

Young people congregate on St Kilda Beach in groups (above), because it "is such a great day".  

And there are dozens of other examples. 

Everyone, it seems, feels they are an "an exception" to the rules, or sheer common decency. Australians have taken over from Brits as the world champion whingers. 

Australia is faring a lot better against coronavirus than many other countries, despite the Government being sluggish to react at  the start. 

But just when did Australians become so selfish that they are willing to put themselves, and and their friends and neighbours - at risk? It's a mystery. 


Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Beaujolais is back baby!

Wines from Beaujolais wines continue to see impressive growth in the British market with export volume and value up 22% and 17% respectively in 2019 - more than any other French wine region. 

Beaujolais tends to be a lighter-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity and lower tannins.

The growth was constant throughout the year - and if Beaujolais is doing well in the gloomy UK climes then it should be doing even better in Australia, where the sunshine makes the style perfect for enjoying chilled.

Rebecca Fraser, head of marketing at Louis Latour Agencies which represents Henry Fessy, told The Drinks Business said that Beaujolais’s success was continuing apace because: “The wines are approachable, fresh, and fruit driven, perfect for regular drinking but also come with a great story. 

"They always strike a chord with consumers when we sample them. They also offer great value, whether it be the wine drinker who wants a simple fruity Beaujolais or someone interested in exploring the characteristics of the different Cru appellations.”

Cécile Bossan-Redon, managing director at Inter Beaujolais, said: “We are proud to have such a healthy increase in exports to the UK. There is now more choice of Beaujolais wines available on UK shelves than ever before, which we believe is a huge contributing factor to its continued popularity.

“Despite the uncertainties raised around Brexit, we have remained committed to the UK market and it’s been important for us to continue to demonstrate the dynamic range and choice Beaujolais wines have to offer, which we believe the increase in export figures represent.”

Wines from Beaujolais are largely made from the gamay grape. The region is situated just north of Lyon.

Positive wine news from Margaret River

After a vintage in which several regions of Australia were blighted by bush fires and resultant smoke taint, the news is rather more positive from Margaret River in Western Australia. 

The Margaret River Wine Association CEO Amanda Whiteland today reported the wrap-up of an "exceptional" vintage.
Vintage at Juniper Estate: Russell Ord Photos

"The region raises a collective sigh of relief to have been able to complete the 2020 vintage undisrupted; without significant rain, lockdowns or the impact of bushfires and losses that sadly, some regions in other parts of Australia have had to endure," the MRWA said in a statement. 

"We are humbly counting our blessings.

"The region enjoyed an early start to the season, with warmer-than-average spring temperatures evolving into the perfect summer growing conditions. 

"Low disease pressure, timely flowering of native Marri trees to keep the birds at bay and little to no rain meant that growers could literally 'take their pick' when they wanted." 

While quality is up, yields down. 

The 2020 vintage will see "one of the smallest harvests in recent years". 

"Lower yields have resulted in exceptional fruit that is physiologically ripe and shows divine concentration of aromas and flavours. While the 2020 vintage from Margaret River will be in scarce supply, it will be a very special vintage to look out for."

Resilient Kangaroo Island wildlife bounces back

Rare Kangaroo Island wildlife species including the dunnart (above) and the KI echidna have been captured on wildlife cameras by the non-governmental organisation Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife.

Sightings of tiny dunnarts using motion-sensing cameras are particularly heartening after fears habitat destruction would decimate the threatened nocturnal marsupials, which only number between 300 and 500.

Bush fires burned about 200,000 hectares of land on the island - almost half its land mass - and especially protected areas of bush in which dunnarts are found.

South Australia’s chief ecologist at the Department for Environment and Water Dr Dan Rogers said specialist advice from some of the world’s leading experts in the rare species was helping.

“Prof Chris Dickman, he knows more about dunnarts generally than anyone else in the world, he was on the phone to us talking us through the biggest risk during the fire and immediately after,” Dr Rogers said.

“After the fire the dunnarts that survived were being found in relatively high densities in unburnt patches and we thought they would be honey pots for the remaining cats on the island… we tried to reduce the risk from the cats.”

Now, the mouse-like creatures that have a pouch like a kangaroo for their babies and are related to quolls and Tasmanian devils, are looking safer.

“They have got a lot of fight for their size,” Dr Rogers said.

More than 90% of the dunnart’s habitat was burned and the non-governmental organisation Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife is working with landowners and National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia to monitor the threatened species.

About 50 motion-sensing cameras are set up in 10 of the larger unburnt patches of parkland and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy has built a cat-proof fence around one dunnart population on private land on the west coast of Kangaroo Island.

Early work to use aeration pumps to mimic water movement and improve circulation also appears to have helped save the only platypus habitat on the island in the burned Rocky River region of the Flinders Chase National Park.

The rare duck-billed semi-aquatic mammals survived the fire that destroyed vegetation along with the nearby visitor centre, housing and campground.

Fears ash and soil runoff from land denuded of vegetation would rob their pond of oxygen were quickly addressed.

“We installed the pumps before two days of rain, a lot of ash went into the pond but the platypus survived that with the pumps providing benefits,” Dr Rogers said.

He said volunteer support and donations from around the world to protect wildlife had been overwhelming, even famed actors like Jamie Foxx in the United States raising funds for Kangaroo Island wildlife.

“Some of these species people around the world have never even heard about and suddenly people are donating to help them, the profile of threatened species throughout the bushfires has been remarkable,” Dr Rogers said.

“There are many species on Kangaroo Island found elsewhere in the country, but because they have been isolated they have their own unique forms.”

One of the most heart-warming images for Dr Rogers occurred during a walk through the charred and lifeless fire ground a few weeks ago.

“An echidna comes trundling around out there just getting on with its business,” he said.

"It was particularly positive to see the endangered short-beaked echidna was still surviving on the blackened grounds where there was little sign of life."

Dr Rogers said despite the creatures being slow moving they were resourceful, many burrowed underground or sheltered under logs to survive the flames – their favourite food, termites and ants, seemed to have survived in a similar fashion.

There was an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 of the unique echidnas living on the island before the fire but about 50% of their habitat was burned.

This subspecies has longer, thinner and paler-coloured spines than echidnas found elsewhere on mainland Australia.

Kangaroo Island is also home to an important population of koalas that because of their isolation have remained free of the Chlamydia infection plaguing mainland populations.

Before the bush fires there was an estimated 50,000 of the iconic creatures living on the island but now early estimations put that figure at between 5000 and 10,000. 

# Information from The Lead South Australia 

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Somewhere fun to stay in Glasgow

Glasgow is a destination that has transformed itself in recent years and the hip The Moxy Hotel Merchant City hotel is just a short stroll from the centre of Scotland's buzziest city. 

It is in a lively area known for its many eateries, student bars, art galleries and coffee shops.

The funky Moxy is part of the Marriott group and is just a short walk from both Glasgow Cathedral and the landmark George Square. 

There is a casual vibe with friendly staff and the rooms feature complimentary wifi, flat-screen TVs and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

It's easy to find someone to chat with around the bar and games area - and the multicutural staff are very helpful. 

Amenities include an industrial-chic 24-hour cafe/bar with a lively vibe, a lounge and a fitness centre. 

Prices start from under $100 per night for a small rooms but rise steeply in peak periods, so it pays to book in advance. 

This is a version of a story that appeared in Winestate Magazine. 

Monday, 30 March 2020

Criminally good? Wine brand launches its own beer.

The 19 Crimes brand has been Australia’s leading wine growth brand over the past 12 months.

It has been so successful that it has now spawned a younger brother - a 19 Crimes beer.

Currently a limited edition, targeted at millennial craft beer drinkers who are on the lookout for something new, the 19 Crimes Pale Ale features similar packaging, complete with the brand's "mug shot" experience.

Named after 18th and 19th-century British rogues sentenced to live in Australia as punishment because they were found guilty of at least one of 19 Crimes, the brand celebrates the rules they broke.

The 19 Crimes Pale Ale will be on sale through Cellarbrations, The Bottle-O, IGA Liquor and Ritchies liquor outlets, along with select on-premise and independent retailers.

“Creating a Pale Ale felt like a natural, obvious next step for the brand as we know that our wine consumers equally enjoy discovering craft beer," said brand manager Laura Wenn.

“We are confident that the 19 Crimes Pale Ale will prove successful with millennials thanks to its crisp taste, distinctive packaging and our ‘talking’ augmented reality label.”

19 Crimes was launched in Canada in 2011, was launched in the USA in 2012, followed by Australia in 2014. Sales exceed 1.6 million cases annually. The beer launch follows successful beer releases in other markets.

The 2020 Olympics will be held in 2021 but ...

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been rescheduled to run from July 23 to August 8, 2021.

Despite being switched from June to 2021, the Games will retain the name Tokyo 2020 for marketing and branding purposes - a piece of bizarre logic of which the Monty Python.troupe would be proud.

The 16th Summer Paralympic Games are now scheduled to take place in Tokyo from August 24 to September 5, 2021.

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said, with trademark Olympic hyperbole, that the Games could provide a 'light at the end of a dark tunnel of humanity' for the world.

He said the new dates "exactly one year after those originally planned for 2020 also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFS."

Bach added: "This is a huge challenge. It is unprecedented. We don't have a blueprint. We have no experts to refer to.

"Now, we have to work and we're working already with the international federations.

"We have to take the qualification into consideration — what it means for the athletes.

"We have to see, and in particular the organising committee will have to see, whether the sports venues are still available. What is happening with all the installations which have already been accomplished for the games in 2020."

So, thanks to the coronavirus, we have sporting chaos all round - with several Olympic sports having world championships scheduled for 2021 that will have to be rescheduled. 

And what of the hotel rooms that have already been booked for conventions in 2021 but will now be needed by the Olympics? 

For now there are more questions than answers.   

Party central Phuket goes into lockdown

The Thai island of Phuket has long been known as party central with its many pubs, bars and nightclubs catering to all tastes, as well as hundreds of beach resorts.

But now the lights are going out in Phuket with governor Phakaphong Tavipatana issuing a directive for residents and the few remaining tourists to stay off the streets after dark.

The governor called for the "collaboration" of local residents and tourists across Phuket to comply and stay indoors between 8pm to 3am each night, local media reported.

The only exception is for 'urgent errands.'

The majority of the Phuket economy, over 56%, is based on tourism with bar workers, dancers and massage parlour workers all without incomes at this time.

Phuket says strict measures are also in force to prevent people planning to travel to other provinces in Thailand.

"Inspection will be strictly applied in the case of traveling to other provinces," the governor's order said.

The Thai Government has imposed a state of emergency which halts most international travel and restricts overland travel between provinces.

The Phuket Communicable Disease Committee announced another six Covid-19 cases today, bringing the total number to 47.

A total of 52 hotels in Phuket have announced their plans to close due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, Thai Hotels Association (THA) chairman Kalin Sarasin announced over the weekend. Thai authorities are also reducing flights. 

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Qatar Airways hits rough financial skies

Qatar Airways has been one of the aviation industry's major success stories over the past decade; building a formidable reputation.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker says the airline will continue flying during the coronavirus crisis, but is fast running out of cash.

It will need a state bailout soon, Travel Mole reported.

The airline flies from its base in Doha to Europe, Asia and Australia, and has 1,800 flights scheduled over the next two weeks.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker 
"We have received many requests from governments all over the world, embassies in certain countries, requesting Qatar Airways not to stop flying," Baker said.

"However, without state support, the airline can only continue for a 'very short period of time.'

"We will surely go to our government eventually for equity."

Employees of the OneWorld alliance flyer have taken voluntary unpaid leave and Baker has said he will take no salary until the airline resumes full operations.

Although regional rivals Emirates and Etihad Airways have grounded their planes, Qatar Airways hasn't benefited from rising airfares.

"We are not taking advantage," Baker said. "This is a time to serve people who want to be with their loved ones in a very trying time."

Founded in 1993, Qatar Airways has a fleet of over 200 aircraft and employs over 43,000 people. As of May 2014, the company is fully owned by the Qatari Government.

Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup soccer finals in 2022.

Designed to please: three stylish Asian travel destinations

There are cities have that have style - and plenty that don’t.

For when we get back to normal, here are three Asian destinations you might want to have in mind to visit. 

All three are global cities that have design down to a fine art – with a nod to what is hip, a sensuous swagger, a certain insouciance.


Straddling both sides of the Huangpu River, Shanghai is China’s glitziest city: a global financial hub with a constantly changing landscape of soaring skyscrapers.

Design pioneers like Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu (the architects behind the new Shanghai Edition complex) and Liu Heung Shing (photographer and founder of the Shanghai Center of Photography) are helping craft the city’s emerging creative culture.

Cult brands like Spin Ceramics and Dong Liang are proving that "made in China" can mean crafted rather than ubiquitous, says Architectural Digest magazine.

New culinary openings, like Polux by leading French chef Paul Pairet, underline that Shanghai is at the forefront with both cuisine and cutting-edge design.

The Pompidou Centre Shanghai, which opened in November in the West Bund Art Museum, is an outpost of the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Under the direction of David Chipperfield Architects, the gallery is located in a wing of the glass museum, with its lease renewable for a five-year period.

Founded by Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Liu Heung Shing, SCoP showcases a diverse body of photography, with topics that range from journalism to fashion and art.

The Pudong skyscape, on the opposite side of the river to the old city centre, is a futuristic wonderland of architecture and lights.

Kuala Lumpur

The Malaysian capital is home to a wide mix of cultures and architectural styles, including Chinese and Art Deco influences.

Attractions include the 19th-century Sri Mahamariamman Temple, built by Tamil migrants coming to work in the tin mines of Kuala Lumpur in 1873. In later years it has been adorned with Spanish and Italian tiles.

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is the largest in south-east Asia, displaying models, dioramas, and artefacts from all over the world.

Kuala Lumpur’s iconic modern landmark is the Petronas Twin Towers, home to designer stores, food outlets and more. The eight-point star base of the soaring towers is influenced by Islamic themes. 

Visit the Petronas Gallery for fine art and the Petrosains Discovery Centre for child-friendly science museum fun.

Designed by Cesar Pelli, the 88-storey towers were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004, until they were surpassed by Taipei 101. The Petronas Towers remain the tallest twin towers in the world.


The ultra-modern capital of South Korea was the World Design Capital in 2010 and remains a global leader in urban design.

Built for Seoul’s stint as global design capital was the Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), now a major urban development landmark that is South Korea’s fashion hub and a popular tourist destination. It is venue for Seoul Fashion Week.

Korean design buzzwords include solidity, innovation, aesthetics and use of the latest technology. Local designer brands include LG, Hyundai and Samsung. Over the past decade Seoul has been updating its skyline with more architecturally advanced and taller buildings that often double as commercial and residential spaces

The 63 Building – once the tallest building in South Korea - is located on Yeouido Island in the Han River, and houses the headquarters of several business organisations as well as the world’s highest art gallery on the 60th floor, an observation deck on the top floor and an aquarium.

Dramatically striking is the Seocho Garak Tower East with a design inspired by Korean pottery. The facades were designed to reflect the light differently from every angle. Visit at night and you’ll get to enjoy a beautiful dance of changing colours forming various patterns.

Samsung Town is the headquarters of the company and consists of three buildings. Each building was designed for a specific division of the business conglomerate. The three towers of different heights are made up of cubes of different sizes to form one unit.

One of the newest additions to the skyline is Lotte World Premium Tower, which was completed in 2017. Described as “sticking out of the ground like a sharp knife”, the tower features shopping facilities and offices. The observation deck and rooftop café offer dramatic city views.

# This is an edited version of a story that appeared in Quest Kudos magazine. 

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Australian Government cracks down on cruise ships

The Ruby Princess scandal, which saw coronavirus-infected hordes disembarking to spread Covid-19 to Sydney and further afield - allegedly at the urging of a politician with a vested interest - has seen further action taken against cruise lines visiting Australia. 

The Australian Government has extended its ban on cruise operations in Australia until June 15, 2020, as a further measure aiming to slow the spread of coronavirus. Many would say too little, too late.

Stuart Allison of Princess Cruises said the line was evaluating all of its previously planned departures, which had already been suspended for 60 days from March 12 through to May 11, industry newsletter Cruise Weekly reported online.

Carnival Cruise Line and P&O Cruises earlier this week announced a planned resumption of local cruising from May 15, while Royal Caribbean Cruises had said it envisaged a worldwide resumption of cruising across its various brands on May 12.

The New Zealand Government, smarter and more proactive than its Australian counterpart, has already imposed a ban on passenger cruise ships through to June 30, 2020.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Fresh fruit delivered to your doorstep

Those of us living in Tasmania are fortunate when it comes to fruit. We can forage the hedgerows for fresh berries, or pluck apples and quinces from suburban trees.

For those living in the big cities, however, sourcing high-quality fruit in the time of coronavirus is not quite as easy.

In fact, I just encountered a serious bogan, accompanied by four children, coughing and hoiking wildly in a supermarket.

An easier solution might be the new offering from Fresh Venture Group, home of Snowgoose and Fruit at Work, which has launched its Fruit at Home Box, what is says brings "a vibrant mix of beautiful quality and safe, fresh fruit to Australian homes".

Fresh Venture Group is Australia’s No.1 workplace fruit delivery company.

“As the number of virus cases exponentially increases, we know you and your family want to completely avoid touching and eating fruit that has been handled and touched by hundreds or possibly thousands of people,” says Wendy Visontay, founder of Fruit at Work.

“With 20 years of experience in the hygienic handling of fruit, we have the strictest health and safety measures in place from grower to delivery.

“While you’re self-isolating, sick or recovering, it’s so important to maintain a healthy diet."

And local farmers need all the support they can get.

“Fruit at Home is packed with essential vitamins and minerals as well as health-boosting flavonoids and antioxidants," Visontay says. "We want everyone to stay safe and healthy by staying at home. And to help you eat well, we’re waiving our home delivery fee as we appreciate these are challenging times.”

Fruit at Home is delivered free to doorsteps in two sizes: regular $49 and large $69. Deliveries are available to homes in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney metro locations.

Fruit lovers can order their Fruit at Home boxes for themselves, loved ones or employees by visiting

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

And then there were none: more Tasmanian festivals cancelled

First it was Dark Mofo, then the Festival of Voices.

They were followed by the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest, ECHO - East Coast Harvest Odyssey and now the inaugural Vintage:Tamar Festival as Tasmanian winter events to fall victim to the coronavirus.

The Tamar Valley
"I regret to inform you that the inaugural Vintage: Tamar Festival - set to feature 22 wine
businesses in the greater Tamar Valley of Northern Tasmania - has been postponed to a date to be advised," event chairman Annette Ferrero of Brook Eden Vineyard announced today.

"I am sure this decision is the right one in the current uncertain times."

All ticket holders will be offered a refund for the May 29-31 event and it is thought unlikely that a re-staging will occur before 2021.

Keep away from our tourist attractions!

Residents in some of Britain's most beautiful tourism regions have urged would-be visitors to stay away. 

Members of the UK tourism industry hit out at "selfish" people who visited parks and seaside resorts last weekend - defying Government advice to practice social distancing.

There are also concerns that second-home owners are choosing to self-isolate at their countryside properties.

The outcry led Health Secretary Matt Hancock to say people should not go to holiday and caravan parks to self-isolate, amid warnings that local services would be put under extra pressure, Travel Mole reported.

Penny Jones, of Crabpot Cottages in Sheringham (above), in Norfolk, told the Eastern Daily Press that strangers had not been heeding the Government’s advice on social distancing. 

“The coastal towns were absolutely packed, like a summer bank holiday." she said. “Normally this would have filled my heart with joy, but not today. We live near Hunstanton - and that was just packed.

“The coast road was bumper to bumper. I don’t believe it was holiday makers but locals out for Mothers’ Day.”

In Skegness, Lincolnshire, dentist Dr Mitchell Clark warned of a "disaster waiting to happen" as thousands flocked to the resort at the weekend. 

He described Skegness as "looking like it does on a busy summer day".

"I view these actions as massively, massively socially irresponsible. I personally think that those involved should be ashamed of themselves." 

West Wittering beach in Sussex has shut, while police in Cumbria warned tourists not to travel to the Lake District. Cornwall has also told visitors to stay away until the coronavirus crisis is over.

Visit Cornwall said: "Visitors should not come to Cornwall at this time, in order to slow the spread of the virus, to protect themselves, as well as the communities of Cornwall."

Huge hotel discounts if you want to hide away for a couple of weeks

Do you feel like locking yourself away from the world for a couple of weeks until the coronavirus crisis has passed?  

Metro Hotels Australia-wide are offering big discounts for long-stay bookings - perfect for would-be cocooners. 

Prices start from $75 per night for those booking 14-night-minimum long stay packages at its network of hotels and apartments. 

Whether you are looking for a safe haven to self-isolate, separate from a flat mate or family
member who needs to isolate, or simply want to unwind and enjoy a break from the world, Metro’s hotels and apartments offer a ‘home away from home’ in the heart of most major cities in Australia.

Metro Hotels offers either apartment-style accommodation with cooking and laundry facilities; or large hotel rooms. 

Guests can book by calling 1800 00 4321 or visit for information on participating hotels and their rates. The rates are valid between now and the end of April. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Five top tips for making the best of working from home

Many of us are having to spend more time working from home. Here is a guest post from Susan Moore, who writes the HuonView blog, on some of the best paths to follow.

I have worked from home full time for almost 10 years now and in that time I've learned a lot about how to do it successfully. But for many people currently in self-isolation or working remotely due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it may be the first time they've worked from home or at least the first long-term remote work stint for them, so I thought I'd share my top tips.

1. Get used to being on video. Not all of us are comfortable being on camera. I confess it's not my favourite thing, but I am a convert. In almost 14 years with my current employer, I have had regular video calls with my manager and my team, who are all based in other countries. Until the last year or so, it was mostly optional. Now, almost every meeting I am involved in is a conference call using video, often with 10 or more people on the call. Being able to see people helps to build relationships and reduces the temptation to multitask or tune out during a meeting. You can see reactions, smiles and gestures which can make a big difference. If you're a small business and don't have fancy collaboration tools, Skype or WhatsApp work just fine.

2. Do not work in your pyjamas. It's the cliché about working from home that I hate the most. Apart from during a few 6am conference calls, I can honestly say I have never worked in my pyjamas. I get up, shower, wear proper clothes and make up. It's a job, and you will not feel professional or motivated in your PJs. And related to the first tip above: you may be invited to a video call at short notice and sleep or leisure wear is not a good look. I usually go for the 'newsreader approach': hair brushed, makeup on and a professional top/jacket paired with comfy jeans and ugg boots.

3. Take breaks and move. It's very easy to sit at your desk for hours and then realise you haven't moved. I sometimes even forget to eat, especially seeing as I often have meetings during normal lunch hours due to time differences with the US and Asia. Set a reminder on your PC, smartwatch or Fitbit and make sure you get up and stretch regularly. Book exercise into your calendar. Having a dog means I walk for 20 minutes twice a day even if nothing else. I also love my standing desk.

4. Set up a work space. Where possible, find a dedicated space for your PC and other work equipment, ideally one that's not shared with your partner or kids. Recently I've taken to moving to different locations in the house during the day, just to mix it up and get a different outlook - or to get the best background and lighting for that important video call!

5. Stop at the end of the day. I am much better at this than I used to be, but it can still be a problem during peak periods. However, one of the top benefits of remote work is the flexibility in hours. As long as you get the work done and deliver results (agreeing what those are is a key to successful management of remote workers), it's up to you to determine when and how. Especially in winter, I usually stop work at 4pm to walk the dog before it gets dark, then go back to work afterwards. I might go out for a haircut or medical appointment during the day and make up the time later. As long as I am meeting expectations, that is fine. I get much more done working from home than I do in the office, so I don't feel guilty about taking time out.Remote work isn't new. The technology is available and not hard or expensive to set up anymore. It's not possible for all jobs of course, and even for work that can be done remotely, I understand it's not for everyone. However, I hope this current crisis serves as a wake-up call to organisations large and small who still do not allow employees to work from home or other locations largely for cultural reasons or a lack of management maturity.

I'm not unusual in the company I work for. In a crisis, our leadership team can tell all staff to take their laptops home and work from there indefinitely. It's been useful more than once, even as far back as during Japan's earthquake and tsunami disasters in 2001. And it's proving critical in the extended and constantly shifting COVID-19 crisis.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Meet the politician who believes alcohol helps spread coronavirus

Carrie Lam says BYOB from Club 7-11 (scmp)
Meet the politician who believes you are more likely to get coronavirus if you are drinking alcohol.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has announced that the city is moving to ban alcohol sales at restaurants and bars as part of more drastic measures to curb the spread of highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

Lam said she is putting forward a raft of policies including banning all visitors from entering Hong Kong and on-premise alcohol sales at eateries, invoking the powers given to her by the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance.

The alcohol ban will affect some 8,600 restaurants, bars and clubs with liquor license in the city.

Arguing for the ban, Lam says when inside a bar, people might have higher risks as "they will take off their masks and chat"; and they might have “more intimate contacts” when they get drunk.

But eating out together is apparently fine.
Hong Kong

“People who want to drink in a bar will just BYOB from Club 7-11 (referring to convenience store 711), decreasing bars’ income and increasing that of 7-11," said one bemused Hong Kong resident on Twitter.

Measures introduced by Lam include banning all non-Hong Kong residents from entering the city for two weeks starting from March 25. Visitors from mainland China Macau and Taiwan will also be denied entry if they have any recent travel history as well.

Threat to 2020 wine vintage in Australia

Australian winemakers are fearful moves to reduce the health impact of the coronavirus could damage the 2020 vintage.

Umbrella group Australian Grape & Wine said it welcomes the approach taken by the Victorian and New South Wales Governments to allow businesses to continue working through the 2020 vintage, and encouraged other governments to follow suit.

Australian Grape & Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said: “We understand the potentially devastating ramifications of COVID-19 on the health and welfare of Australians, and recognise that governments have to make difficult decisions that impact businesses, the economy, and our normal way of life.

“However, the next 4-6 weeks is a critical period for grape and wine businesses in Australia. They have just one chance per year to grow grapes and make wine, and many are nervous about whether heightened COVID-19 responses will require them to shut down vintage 2020.”

2020 has seen hundreds of wine businesses facing a future without tourists visiting their cellar doors, or suffering the impacts of fire and smoke damage. Cancelling the 2020 vintage could spell the end for many – possibly hundreds – of Australian grape and wine businesses, with significant flow-on impacts in rural and regional communities.

“It is imperative that we get these grapes picked, crushed, fermented and locked away for maturation,” said Battaglene.

“About 30% of the national crop is still to be picked, with many growers and wineries currently working around the clock to get the job done. A shut-down of the sector now would destroy the vast majority of the 2020 vintage, which would have ramifications for many years to come.

“Wine businesses are putting unprecedented measures in place to ensure the safety of their people and their customers, and to comply with government directives. These measures are allowing the grape and wine sector to complete vintage under tight conditions that will help halt the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

“We hope all governments across Australia can implement arrangements that protect human health and ensure vintage 2020 can be completed.”

The entire 2020 crop has been lost to smoke taint n some parts of Hunter Valley and Adelaide Hills wine regions, as well as the Hilltops and Canberra.

Couple caught out breaking self-isolation rule

No one is expected to enjoy self-isolation in the age of the coronavirus - but neither can travellers just ignore it.
Well, one Hong Kong couple visiting New Zealand thought the rule did not apply to them. Only to get caught out.

The ever-reliable Travel Mole reported that a Hong Kong couple wase removed from a tour in New Zealand and handed over to police for flouting self-quarantine rules.

After just a few days of self-isolation the pair rented a campervan and took a heli-hiking tour of the Fox Glacier alongside 10 other people.

Fox Glacier Guiding CEO Rob Jewell said the couple was told about the self-isolation rules several times during their trip.

He said the company only realised they were breaking their quarantine while they were on the glacier.

Another helicopter was sent up to take them off the mountain and were handed over to police.

"We found out that these people had been told on their arrival to Christchurch Airport about the self-isolation rules," Jewell said.

"They had then picked up a Maui campervan and on collecting that van Maui had told them about self-isolating and it was in their documentation..

"These people had agreed to it yet they decided to basically flout the rules."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said random checks by police are taking place and any violations could result in fines and deportation for foreign visitors.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Iconic Australian winery restaurant shuts up shop

The d’Arenberg Cube Restaurant has closed permanently with immediate effect.

The McLaren Vale icon has shut due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Facing the challenges of the current economic environment since the global pandemic and with much regret, we have made the very hard decision to close The d'Arenberg Cube Restaurant,” the operators said. 

“Since its inception [chefs] Brendan, Lindsay and their incredible team have delivered a dining experience that is truly extraordinary. 

"We are eternally proud and grateful for what has been achieved by the restaurant team and thankful to the many thousands of diners who have trusted us with their patronage. We truly hope that trust has been rewarded with long lasting memories of surprise, adventure, and most importantly delicious food.”

The five-storey d’Arenberg Cube and its fine dining restaurant opened in late 2017 headed by husband-and-wife duo Brendan Wessels and Lindsay Dürr. 

A new restaurant will eventually fill the level three space, but no commitments have been made. 

The Cube, brainchild of d'Arenberg co-owner Chester Osborn, is a five-storey multi-function building set among mataro vines.

The building has the optical illusion of floating in a vineyard, each level with spectacular views overlooking the rolling hills of Willunga. 

April 2 was originally scheduled as the closing date, but Government legislation brought the closure forward.  

Memphis leads the way with a virtual music festival

With major music events and festivals cancelled around the world due to the coronavirus, the US city of Memphis is banding together to bring the music of Memphis to people who can’t travel.

The virtual music festival is aimed to allow those self isolating to party, but will also raise funds for musicians who among the many severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis and the ongoing cancellation of events, gatherings, and travel.

The free event will be streamed as a live Facebook event, hosted from the Memphis Tourism website and will run from March 26-28. 

The event will include a donation button to encourage those who are able, to support the musicians giving their time to provide entertainment and brief stress relief for people around the world – all from a very safe distance.

Headliners already signed on include blues-soul band and recent Grammy nominees Southern Avenue, Ben Nichols of Southern rock band Lucero - both of whom have recently toured Australia, and Memphis-bred experimental funk bassist MonoNeo.

Memphis is known for its vibrant music scene, one which has historical ties to almost every musical genre, so Memphis Tourism’s Australian Director, Chris Ingram, said that the organisation’s decision to get on board was an easy one.

“The musicians of Memphis play an integral part in the city’s identity – as they have throughout history," he said.

"The destination’s live music scene is one of the world’s most vibrant and this festival provides a great opportunity to help lift people up during what is an incredibly challenging time, whilst still celebrating the music that our great city is famous for.”

The event link is: 

Memphis appears to be leading the world in virtual experiences. Other options include:

# Live streaming story times from the Memphis Library

# Behind the scenes and virtual animal encounters at Memphis Zoo

# A temporary art installation from Urban Art Commission

# Streaming of iconic Thursday and Saturday night drag shows from Dru’s Place

# Opera Memphis' virtual opera festival, 30 Days of Opera, from April 1

For a full list of virtual events and experiences available in Memphis, please visit: