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November 11, 2019

Western Australia's Silo Art Trail




Michael Osborne explores the Public Silo Trail in WA

Australian’s are amazing when it comes to creativity, in particular when times are tough in the bush. One only has to see some of the great inventions our forebears created to help them survive our climate.

As we are aware, our country is enduring one of the worst drought and dry spell for many a year. The people on the land are suffering and are looking at tourism dollars to earn some money to see them over until the next wet.

So along comes FORM.

FORM is an independent, non-profit cultural organisation that develops and advocates for excellence in creativity and artistic practice in Western Australia.

They come up with a concept - The Public Silo Trail – which is a partnership between FORM and Co-operative Bulk Handling Group (CBH Group).

One can imagine the conversation, ‘Look, we have all these giant white grain silos, so why don’t we get together with the local communities and check-out some artists and get a few murals painted on them.’ Might look pretty good!

The end result a 1,000km self-drive art trail that you can start in Perth, and head east and travel through Northam – Merredin – Ravensthorpe - Newdegate – Pingrup – Katanning – and down south to Albany.

One of the largest outdoor art galleries in the world.

At Northam we were taken to the Bilya Koort Boodja Aboriginal Centre. This is the best audio/visual presentation on indigenous people I have ever seen. I kept walking back and rechecking the exhibits as there was so much to try and absorb in the short period we had.

https://www.bilyakoortboodja.com/

There are other attractions along the way, including a Yabby farm, at Kukerin where local yabbies are readied for transporting to the finest restaurants in Australian and around the world

http://www.cambinatayabbies.com.au/home.html

At Newdegate you must visit the Hainsworth Museum, originally a corner store and tea room built in 1933 and now restored by the locals to a time-warp history piece.

https://www.australiasgoldenoutback.com/business/attractions/hainsworth-museum

Near Lake Grace we enjoyed a wine tasting at Walkers Hill Vineyard. A Chardonnay very dry and crisp with fruit tones. Their Shiraz is big and peppery. But the pick for me was their Drought Rose, plenty of fruit and a little tingle on the tongue.

https://www.walkershillvineyard.com.au/

On to Denmark. Next on our journey was Singlefile Wines, apparently named after the resident geese who would parade around the lake in s single file!

They gather fruit from across The Great Southern and create many award winning wines, including a very special Chardonnay. http://www.singlefilewines.com/

Heading west along the cost we arrive at Walpole. This area is highly rated as a tourist destination, with so much to see and do.

We opted for a very special dinner cruise around the lake.

VERY Special: Why? Well in more than 45-years of travel, I have seen countless tour guides and presenters, but here we had Gary Muir! This man is a living legend; I have never experienced anyone with so much passion for his area. He had our group almost rolling around the deck with his comments and antics. I could fill this whole article with asides from his routine. But to do him and this wonderful lake and cruise justice you must not miss his daily cruise.

http://www.wowwilderness.com.au/

A short drive has us at The Valley of the Giants at Tingledale.

See giant ancient trees, learn about nature and then take the aerial adventure – The Tree Top Walk – A wheel chair accessible walk that slopes into the canopy of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park and Walpole Wilderness, offering spectacular views over densely forested hills. Descending to the boardwalks below to explore the Ancient Empire Walk, you’ll enter a grove of towering veteran tingle trees.

https://www.valleyofthegiants.com.au/listing/tree-top-walk /

All of the towns along the trail have their own uniqueness and you will find that the locals are fully supportive of the visiting travellers, many of them arriving with caravans and others in campervans.

Most towns have a free parking area with facilities for the visitors to overnight and freshen up. Also caravan parks, motels and hotels of good to high-end levels.

We tried a variety of accommodation – from farm stay style at Mary Farm Cottages – which were modern fully equipped cottages in a beautiful setting. http://marysfarmcottages.com.au/

At Katanning we were spoilt with staying at the Premier Mill Hotel, which because of its uniqueness really has to be seen and experienced. A former flour mill that was almost due to be demolished has been restored to an intriguing perfection by Nigel Oakey. https://premiermillhotel.com/##home

Heading then To Walpole we Glamped at the Coalmine Caravan Park. Modern fully contained tents which although compact, have everything you would need for an overnighted of a week or two. During the night there was a heavy downpour and the sound of the rain on the canvas was the best sleeping tonic. https://www.coalminebeach.com.au/

Last on our adventure was Albany, where the grain is sent to sea. It is also the home of the National Anzac Centre honouring the memory of our incredible Anzac’s as over 41,000 departed from Albany’s harbour, the last time most ever laid eyes on their home country.

https://www.nationalanzaccentre.com.au/#

Food and Beverage. One thing I did see often was the sign “The Best Coffee in Town” and I will have to admit all we tried were excellent.

Food wise we found that many locals have formed a type of co-op to source fresh produce which they then created some extremely delicious presentations, in quaint country restaurants.

www.publicsilotrail.com

www.australiasgoldenoutback.com

https://www.australiassouthwest.com/

Words and images: Michael Osborne

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

November 02, 2019

Kimberley Cruising On Wandjina Time

#expeditioncruising



Time moves so slowly in the Kimberley, it might as well stand still. Adventure cruiser, Roderick Eime, faces off with the ancient Wandjina.

Their mouthless faces stare out from the rock ceiling, eyes wide and all-seeing. These are the Wandjina, invisible to mere mortals. The Kimberley of Australia’s North West is their realm and they rule supreme, governing the rain and the life-giving regeneration that follows.

We’re here in the famous cave at Raft Point, possibly the best known of all Wandjina rock art sites in the Kimberley. Their Dreamtime stories are kept alive by local indigenous people like the Mowanjum people from nearby Derby. Their Dreaming stories tell of the first Wandjina, called Idjair, who lives in the Milky Way and is the father of all the Wandjinas who went on to create the Earth.

Wandjina_4426

“The Wandjinas gave the language, the culture and the laws of the country,” says Mowanjum artist Leah Umbagai, “They told us how we have to work the country and how we have to live. So all the laws, language and traditions we got from the Wandjinas. This is a very powerful person or spirit being that we believe in. We are here because of the Wandjinas.”

The oldest Wandjina art was created perhaps 4000 years ago. It is traditionally repainted every few years because the dyes and ochres would otherwise fade and deteriorate. Older still are the Gwion Gwion paintings, now so ancient they are fused in the rock itself and impossible to date by conventional methods. Researchers are confident they are at least 20,000 years old, probably older.

Coming face-to-face with these prehistoric murals is a humbling experience. All of a sudden you realise how fleeting your existence is and how little the Earth cares about your dreams and aspirations.
Even though we may be brief and transient visitors to this realm, it doesn’t stop us marvelling at the grandeur of the creations that surround us here in the Kimberley. The majesty of King George Falls in full flight ranks along with Victoria Falls and Niagara in terms of sheer beauty, if not water volume. The better cruise operators will bring their tenders so close that your whole body will shudder as the cascade plummets 80 metres into the river, enveloping you in a dense, misty spray.

The best way to access these remote wonders is by small ship and expedition cruising has found a solid niche in the Kimberley with more and more vessels plying these remote waters thanks to the accelerating tourism interest in the region. However, with the notorious six-metre tides, patchy charts and tricky currents, local experience comes into its own. This, coupled with the preference to smaller vessels, makes the Kimberley a premium destination for adventure cruise travellers.

One of the acknowledged preeminent operators, is the multi-award-winning True North Adventure Cruises who have seen more than 30 years of continuous operation in the region.

“We are very different to a big ship holiday,” said owner and founder, Craig Howson OAM, “Our itineraries are always activity-based and much more suited to travellers who are looking for a holiday that is also an enriching experience.”

Their luxury expedition vessel, True North, carries just 36 guests in superlative ‘barefoot comfort’, and lavishes guests with such activities as heli-fishing and flightseeing with their onboard jet helicopter, tender exploration into remote tributaries and ecological enrichment thanks to onboard scientists like Dr Andy Lewis, a passionate marine biologist and expedition leader.

For those looking for simpler relaxation, Craig’s team offers unsurpassed fishing in the many tributaries throughout the Kimberley where dedicated anglers can land snapper, mullet, queenfish, mangrove jack or even the legendary barramundi. If you can’t catch a fish in the Kimberley, then you really should give it up.

The Kimberley cruise season is typically between March and September as the weather transitions from wet to dry. Early season has the best waterfalls, while later is best for fishing. The choice is yours, because the Wandjina will be doing their thing regardless, just as they have done since the dawn of time.

More: www.truenorth.com.au

October 27, 2019

Akaroa: New Zealand's historic port town



Dallas Sherringham explores a once-sleepy town that only came alive in the summer holidays, but that all changed when the cruise ships started arriving en masse after the earthquake in nearby Christchurch.
The beautiful little town set inside an extinct flooded volcano now hosts 90 cruise ship visits a year, sometimes hosting two in one day.
That puts the population of just 600 under some stress, but business people don't mind as it has extended their opportunities far beyond even the most optimistic of them could ever hope for in days gone by.
And Akaroa has always been a town divided: there is a British town centre and a kilometre away there is a French town centre.
The French kind of "discovered" it first but the British claimed it and the two communities lived side by side for many years.
I learnt all this recently when I arrived on Ruby Princess while cruising from Los Angeles to Sydney via New Zealand and I hopped on a minibus driven by "Big Trevor".
Now Big T, as everyone calls him, knows Akaroa like the back of his hand.  He hosts tens of thousands of visitors every year on his Hop On, Hop Off service around the highlights of the twin towns while telling the story of the area he loves.
High on the hill behind the French town is the world-famous Giants House.
An easy walk from the Akaroa waterfront up Rue de Balguerie, this is a grand and elegant two-storey villa, lovingly restored and converted into a B&B by owner and artist Josie Martin. It was built of native timbers in 1880 for the local bank manager, intended to be impressive, and it certainly awed the toddler who unwittingly named it after saying "it looks like a Giant's house!"
The garden is sensational. Not just because it's beautifully designed and maintained, and full of flowers and topiary, but because of the ornamentation.
 Josie started 20 years ago by using pretty bits of broken china she'd dug up while gardening to make a mosaic doorstep – and just kept going. Now there's a full-size grand piano outside the main entrance, along with an accompanying band, a sailing ship across the lawn, a pool and fountain.
Along the winding paths up through the terracing beside the house are various life-sized and bigger people, cats, dogs, birds and other animals real and imaginary, all painstakingly shaped and decorated with broken china, tile, mirror and glass.
 It's all mosaic: paths, steps and walls, benches, arches and seats, surreal sculptures and realistic figures like mime artist Marcel Marceau, all of them colourful, witty and literally fantastic. There's something new to enjoy around every bend in the path, from ankle-height marvels of delicate artistry to impressive steel-structured engineering looming overhead. French music tinkles, so does the fountain, and time evaporates

In the French quarter also stands Akaroa's fascinating museum which tells the story of the town in professionally designed displays, typography and images. It includes two original rooms of the town's first house, built in the 1840s out of locally cut hardwood.
Across the road are eateries flying the tricolour of the French flag and set beside streets with names starting with "Rue de".
The war memorial, built after World War One, is one of the best I have seen in any country town or village.
If you are travelling the South Island, Akaroa needs to be on your "musts" list.
It is rich in delights ranging from harbour-side restaurants, great walks, penguins, viewing of the rare Hector's dolphin, kayaking, sailing, harbour cruises, tours, sheep dog displays or simply eating fish and chips on the end of the wharf as the sun sets.
 And then there's the shopping: arts, crafts, souvenirs, food, and three colours of pearls, jewellery, possum fur and woollen clothing, wine.
Entering and leaving Akaroa on a ship is spectacular. High, rugged hills and cliffs shrouded in mist and rain with occasional shafts of sunlight spearing through, lighting up the green fields or blue water light a giant spotlight.
Then the tiny town emerges from the mist as you approach it in the ships tender.
And as you leave you already pledge to return one day, such is the allure of New Zealand's very own Brigadoon.
Words and Images: Dallas Sherringham and supplied.
Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

October 17, 2019

Outback ballooning in Australia's Northern Territory



A view of Australia's wondrous Outback the few visitors will see. Ellen and David Hill take to the air in silence and awe.

BEING caught between the cusp of a new day and the last flickers of night is like witnessing two of nature’s most intimate acts – birth and death. Secret and mysterious, only a select few are privy to its glory.

Today, we are that select few, a group of strangers pressed together in a wicker basket like sardines in a can, suspended 1000ft above the ground on the outskirts of Alice Springs, smack bang in the centre of Australia.

In the pre-dawn silence when the nocturnal animals have bedded down before the birds awake, the sun sends tentative golden strands across the red dirt until it glows like an ember. Its radiant tentacles stretch out slowly as they have done for millennia, highlighting desert features of oaks and mulga scrub, rock wallabies and craggy outcrops.



On the opposite horizon a sleepy full moon melts down like an egg yolk behind the rugged outline of the MacDonnell Ranges, leaving the sky silvery blue in its wake.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the 30m tall balloon with its cargo of Outback Ballooning Alice Springs passengers is carried along with it.

Hot air balloons are the most basic of aircraft. But all fears and concerns for the world below and the flimsiness of our craft have whooshed above our heads as the pilot pumps the burners to send jets of orange, blue and white hot propane fuel into the balloon.

We float aimlessly through the first heaven, unaware of our progress. There is no airspeed, no aerodynamic lift, no vibration and no wind noise. We cannot pitch or roll.



The G-free experience is like gently levitating rather than flying.

My seven-year-old son, almost too terrified to join the flight, pops his head up from the base of the basket to get a better look at the unfolding palette before us.

He remains there mesmerised until the basket scrapes the top of a tree on its final descent back to terra firma.

Out here, the ranges are no fuzzy-topped mountains emanating a soothing blue haze but a jumbled stretch of rocky outcrops and hills that appear much larger and further away than they really are because the pathetic scrub is no more than a few patches of scrub and that accursed spiky buffel grass.

This is one of the most isolated and arid places on earth, a place where you can wander far into the horizon and not see another soul. A place where all there is for company is the melancholy “Ark, Ark, Aaaah’’ of a lone crow, the crunch of your feet in the never-ending dirt and the gentle wail of the breeze. Where the sun beats down so hard it feels like it’s pushing you into the rock hard earth.

Here in the second largest desert in the world, clouds become a myth and the clumps of spinifex grass haul themselves out of what must be imaginary moisture. This desert of 1.3 million sq miles receives just a Biblical rich man’s drop of water on its tongue – 5 inches a year. Some parts of central Australia only get relief once or twice a decade, just enough to torment. This collection of small deserts is called the Outback, and takes up 44 per cent of the continent.

Mile after mile of river and creek beds wind their way through this parched land, baked to that red dust and rock in the merciless Outback sun. The ``Floodway’’ signs that appear at regular intervals along the highways seem ludicrous as the waterways snake through the landscape as a mocking reminder of the thundering rains that will surely come.

Then myriad dry lakes fill with water and the lowest point on the continent, the half million square mile Lake Eyre Basin, floods as the rivers drain into its bowl.

But sometimes nature taunts the thirsty tongue and parched earth. Sometimes the rains don’t come and the Todd River remains a shortcut walkway into the town of Alice Springs from outlying settlements.

Reality hits as the basket bumps and scrapes along the ground, sending puffs of ochre coloured dirt into the air. We hadn’t even noticed our descent.

Still trapped in the romance of the experience, we tumble awkwardly from the basket and stomp our boots on the dirt.

Reality hits when we’re summoned to help the crew pack up the nylon balloon into its bag before breakfast and a glass of sparkling Australian wine or juice.

Cost:

30 minute flight: $305
60 minute flight: $395
Chase and breakfast for non-flying partners: $50
Separate mandatory insurance fee: $30 per passenger

How to get there:

Passengers are collected from their accommodation in Alice Springs and dropped back after the flight.

Bookings:

Toll free: 1800 809 790 (within Australia) or sales@outbackballooning.com.au.

October 13, 2019

Cruising royally on Ruby Princess



From Editor At Sea, Dallas Sherringham, on board Ruby Princess

Ruby Princess's first deployment to Australian waters is proving to be a major success with tens of thousands of passengers already booked. Princess fans are a devoted group: I know because I am one of them.

And I am spending a month onboard cruising from LA to Sydney via Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand. The weather is sublime, the crew is friendly, the food is great and there is plenty to do and see on board an impressive newer style ship with luxury appointments throughout.

I was sitting chatting with Captain Ron Wilson the other day and he casually asked a group of us what the best feature of the ship was. Bruce from Melbourne came up with the best answer: "When you first walk up the gangplank, you feel like you have come home to a special place."

And that sums up the joy of cruising and the consistency of the Princess brand in particular. We anticipate, they deliver.

There are dining options galore in board including the superb experience of Share by Curtis Stone. The Grill, Pizza Place an International Cafe compliment two formal dining rooms with traditional sittings, a dine any time restaurant and the regular Horizon Court buffet for informal brekky, lunch and dinner.

I have sailed on a lot of Princess ships, but I particularly like "Ruby". She is a happy ship and rides well. There is plenty of deck room and three pools, so she never seems crowded.

The Grand Atrium with beautiful mosaics is the heart of the ship and you can often sit and enjoy relaxing live music while dreaming over a cappuccino or sipping fine wine from Vines.

My cabin on Baja Deck is most relaxing with a roomy balcony to watch the world go by and a king-size bed and plenty of hanging space. The TV options are good with the latest movies, TV series and Live Sports available.

Princess Cruises for all Australians and New Zealanders

Princess Cruises have already announced that the 2019/2020Australian cruise season will be their largest in history, cementing the brand's position as the leading cruise line in Australia and New Zealand. The record-breaking 900+ day deployment will see Princess carry more guests than ever onboard five ships on itineraries from Sydney, Perth (Fremantle), Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland. The maiden arrival of the 113,561 tonne 3,080 guest Ruby Princess and the second season return of the 143,700 tonne 3,560 guest Majestic Princess. Cruising 444 cruise days out of Sydney, Majestic and Ruby will generate a combined landmark capacity of over 100,000 guests, a 25 per cent increase on the 2018/2019 season.

"Princess is gearing up for our largest Australian and New Zealand deployment in history, which will see a record number of people cruising on Princess ships over the 2019/2020 season," said Senior Vice President Princess Cruises Asia Pacific, Stuart Allison "Our largest ever deployment will feature five ships sailing from six homeports on over 125 departures across more than 60 itineraries to over 100 destinations in 30 countries.

The arrival of Ruby Princess, combined with news of Majestic's return before she's completed her maiden season here, means we'll have 2 of the 4 latest Princess ships sailing in this region which speaks to the momentous growth of our market.

"In another milestone, Princess will spend an unprecedented141 days deployed in Fremantle, the largest financial commitment made to the state of Western Australia by a cruise brand. South Australia will also see a surge in cruise ships sailing to and from the region, with Golden Princess, Sun Princess and Majestic Princess completing itineraries to and from Adelaide. In Brisbane, Sea Princess will return to complete itineraries spanning 2 to 35 days, calling to destinations across New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Coral Sea, South Pacific, and Hawaii.

Highlights include a new 10-day voyage to Tasmania, with calls to Burnie, Port Arthur, Hobart, and Sydney. In Melbourne, Golden Princess returns, sailing to destinations in New Zealand, South Australia and the South Pacific. Highlights include a new 14 day Queensland cruise with calls to Airlie Beach, Yorkey's Knob, Port Douglas, Brisbane, Newcastle and Sydney and a new 7-day Southern Australia Explorer with late-night calls in Adelaide. For more information, see a licensed travel agent; call 1324 88 or visit www.princess.com

Words: Dallas Sherringham, who travelled at his own expense.

Images: Dallas Sherringham (1.2.3.) and supplied

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

October 06, 2019

Germany’s Romantic Road


Magnificent medieval architecture, the dramatic Alps, pretty green rolling countryside, castles and some of the most picturesque villages in Europe combine to make Germany's Romantic Road a very special drive.  Len Rutledge travels off by heart
We began in Füssen in the south with its large former monastery and castle and finished in Würzburg 350 kilometres to the north. While this drive could have taken four hours, in fact we took three days and felt rushed in the process.
These were some of the highlights.
Schwangau
This small village is home to one of Germany's most iconic sights, Schloss Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle that inspired Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a personal retreat, the castle has enough towers, turrets, balconies, pinnacles and sculptures to satisfy anyone.
You can visit the castle with a timed ticket but you will share the trip with hundreds of others during busy times. I suggest the best view is from Marienbrücke, the suspension bridge behind the castle where you can see the dreamy castle in all its glory.
If you have the time, also tour the less-visited Hohenschwangau, the neighbouring castle where King Ludwig II grew up and dreamed about his magical castle.
Augsburg
The city was founded in 15 BC and was a free imperial city until the early 19th century. Due to a flourishing textile trade, luxurious palatial homes, civic buildings, baroque fountains and gothic churches were built.
Constructed in the early 1600s, the "Rathaus" still serves as the administrative centre of the city. Next to it you can climb an ancient Perlachturm tower, built over 1000 years ago to serve as a watchtower.
Harburg
Towering over the town, Harburg Castle exemplifies medieval architecture. It comes complete with sentry walk, prison tower, dungeon and ballroom. There is a small hotel inside if you wish to stay.
Nördlingen
This has beautifully preserved town walls and the Rieskrater Museum, where you'll learn about the meteor that struck this area some 15 million years ago. In fact, the entire almost perfectly round walled old town is built inside a massive crater. Because it sees fewer tourists than Rothenburg or Dinkelsbühl, the other two walled towns, it can be enjoyed more quietly.
Dinkelsbühl
Dinkelsbühl was not bombed in the Second World War, so it stands as it was in the Middle Ages, when it was created.
St. George's Minster, a late 15th-century Gothic masterpiece, dominates the town while magnificent gabled buildings, dating from around 1600, line the central Weinmarkt. Many are now restaurants and cafés. The square hosts many festivals and celebrations throughout the year.
I strongly suggest a walk on the town walls with their 18 towers and four gates. The views are nice but the thought of walking where many armed defenders have been over hundreds of years makes it something special.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
This is a very popular tourist destination overlooking the Tauber River, so it can get quite crowded. You have a real sense of stepping back into Renaissance era Germany and most visitors love it. The narrow cobblestone streets feel like they haven't changed in hundreds of years.
Late afternoon is the best time after the tourist buses have left and the shops are closing, leaving only the restaurants open. It's a calm atmosphere allowing you to really take in the town.
Rothenburg's well-preserved town walls which completely encircle the old town are great for walking along. It is free and it was one of the highlights for us.
Parking is almost impossible inside the walls so we chose a hotel close by with its own car park and we left our car there the whole time.
Walking along cobbled streets, you'll notice that each building here is special. There are various popular photo points but we equally enjoyed walking the back streets and making our own discoveries.
Bad Mergentheim
This is home to one of Southern Germany's spa resorts. If you're looking for a massage, an Ayurvedic treatment or some time in a sauna, this is the place for you. There is also a large castle and a wonderful Rococo church.
Würzburg
Built around the Main River and surrounded by rolling hills, the city of Würzburg has impressive architecture and a nice vibe.
In 686, three Irish missionaries made a vain attempt to convert the town ruler to Christianity. Later, Würzburg had a bishop appointed and became a duchy as well, and the ruling prince-bishops brought their wealth here causing the city to experience a period of growth and lavishness.
You see this today in the Wurzburger Residenz a baroque palace now inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list and once the seat of the reigning prince-bishop; the rococo-style church Käppele; and Festung Marienberg, a medieval fortress high above the city.
Words: Len Rutledge  Images: Phensri Rutledge
Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

1.      Schloss Neuschwanstein
2.      Dinkelsbühl
3.      Rothenburg
4.      Würzburg

September 29, 2019

Cruising Africa: An emerging wonder



From South Africa to Namibia, each port of call along Africa's wondrous coast has a history that's suffused with smoky intrigue. Some ports are bustling hives of activity while others are rarely visited, perhaps only on repositioning voyages or on a luxurious expedition, in which case your cruise is liberally laced with a sense of exclusivity. Whatever your chosen itinerary, cruise cabin comfort is of the utmost importance.

At the southern tip of the continent, nestled beneath Table Mountain, is South Africa's most famous port. Suffice to say that a visit to Cape Town is an African cruise highlight, but Durban, which faces the Indian Ocean, is the east coast port of choice. The city's seafront underwent a massive facelift for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, resulting in a beachside boulevard peppered at regular intervals with bars, cafés and restaurants. It is the closest thing to Rio that you will find on this continent.

At this grand promenade's southern end, not far from your ship’s mooring, is uShaka Marine World. It includes Sea World and is Africa's largest water wonderland with dolphin, seal and penguin shows. While scouting the Durban seafront, don't miss riding the Skycar to the top of Moses Mabhida Stadium for an outstanding 360-degree panorama. In addition, given Durban's vibrant Indian population, your shrewd choice in local dining would be a deliciously authentic curry.

Durban port and seafront (supplied)

Local excursions include a nano-safari to Tala Private Game Reserve to see rhino, hippo, giraffe, kudu and sable antelope. The Valley of 1000 Hills is the heartland of the Zulu nation with indigenous crafts for sale and energetic dancing to enjoy at cultural villages along the tourist route.

On West Africa's former Slave Coast, spirit worship for protection and luck is still part of daily life. Cotonou is Benin's teeming trading port, shifting goods from up-country neighbours including Niger, Burkino Faso, Mali and Togo. Cotonou's bustling Port de Peche is the local fishing fleet haven and it's an especially lively and colourful sight in the late afternoon when hundreds of fishermen haul in their catch.

You will find intricate masks, carvings and paintings in the Hall d’Art on Boulevard Saint Michel, but far more stimulating is the sprawling Dantokpa market, where a bewildering jumble of wares extends from clothing and shoes to the more intriguing voodoo dolls, amulets and charms.

Dark legend cloaks the old slave port of Ouidah, 40 kilometres west of Cotonou and famous for its full moon voodoo ceremonies. An insight into the ancient kingdom of Dahomey is the basis of an excursion to the Palais Royal du Roi Toffa (Musee Honmé) and ethnographic museum in the nearby capital of Porto Novo.

Young dancers, Walvis Bay, Namibia (RE)

Dakar's pulsating Sandaga market is a more adventurous outing. Alternatively, and closer to the port, the Marché Kermel sells fresh food and flowers. You may see a few bronzes for sale or buy a souvenir CD of the local mbalax music (Senegal's fusion of Western jazz, soul, Latin and rock with traditional sabar drumming) heard everywhere at high volume. There are views across the city from the observation level inside the imposing African Renaissance Monument, unveiled last year to celebrate 50 years of Senegalese independence.

Le Village des Arts, on the airport road, is a crucible of contemporary creativity with artists at work in 52 studios. La Maison des Esclaves, which literally translates to House of Slaves, on Gorée Island can be visited on a tour or by public ferry. It's the top tourist attraction, so expect a press of ardent hawkers en route to the 18th century building that's now a slave trade museum. Immense sand dunes are included in a half-day excursion to Lac Rose (Pink Lake), beside which salt farmers toil under a blazing sun. High salinity gives the water its unique tint.

By sailing into Walvis Bay on Africa's South Atlantic coast, you are following in the wake of 15th century Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias. The only deepwater harbour in Namibia is your gateway to the Namib desert, considered to be the world's oldest.

Tales of the bay's notorious Skeleton Coast - so-called for its many shipwrecks – are told best at the town museum. Walvis Bay's oldest building is an 1880 German mission church, but for most visitors the local wildlife and desert are the star attractions.

Tours within the bay seek out Heaviside and Bottlenose dolphins, visit resident seal colonies and provide bird lovers with marvellous moments. A restaurant perched above the water serves prized local catch, such as kabeljou and snoek. Cultural tours offer a fascinating glimpse into the vigorous lives of the Ovambo, Herero and Damara people.

You can climb a lofty dune on the outskirts of town, but a 4WD Namib tour gives a much closer look at the land. The Namib-Naukluft of these National Park has impressively vivid landscapes and unusual flora. Not far north is the German farming settlement of Swakopmund with its attractive colonial architecture.

From north to south, ancient to modern, desert to coast, a cruise offers the perfect setting and means of transport from which to explore the regions of this fascinating and spectacular continent.

Chile: Land of Fire and Ice


Few countries on the planet are as varied as Chile. We travel from one end to the other for two completely different experiences.

At its widest point, Chile measures just 350km across, yet stretches 4300km lengthways. It’s wedged between mountains and oceans, and bookended by deserts and fjords. Much of it sits beneath – and amongst – volcanoes and glaciers that have shaped and sculpted an astoundingly varied landscape over countless years. It’s the land of fire and ice.

My itinerary goes from one extreme to another, from the dusty, big-sky country of the Atacama – reputed to be the driest desert on the planet – in the north to the treeless plains and windswept mountains of Patagonia in the south. And my journey begins in Santiago.

Several days spent exploring the capital’s historical and cultural sights and surrounding wine regions instils a desire to try something more vigorous. I fly north to San Pedro, a popular tourist base for seeing the Atacama, where first impressions are of a one-horse town populated by backpackers. Innumerable pensiones and hostales cater specifically to the budget crowd but my digs are more salubrious, tucked away in a valley that’s far from the tourist hordes.

The access road to the Alto Atacama can best be described as uninspiring. But that doesn’t prepare me for the sanctuary inside. Spacious rooms, fine food and wine, a tranquil spa facility and no less than six swimming pools to laze beside tempt me to hole up inside the hotel for the entirety of my stay. It’s not the facilities I love most though; it’s the guest activities, all of which are included in the tariff.

I’m barely five minutes into a chat with the hotel’s activities manager when I begin hatching plans to return, for this is my kind of place. There are immersive cultural excursions and photogenic sightseeing tours, as well as plenty of heart-straining hikes and rides for exercise junkies. I slot firmly into the latter category and spend the next three days mountain biking through narrow gorges and hiking over mountain passes separating high altitude salt lakes. While I’m at it I spot flamingoes and vicuñas beneath smouldering volcanoes and fill my evenings gazing upon a million stars in some of the clearest skies on Earth.

The highlight, though, surprises me, as it is considerably less active. On my last afternoon I join a sunset tour – by minibus – through the otherworldly landscape of the Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley. From a ridge-top pedestal I marvel at the twisted rock formations and rippled sand dunes inside the Central Canyon then motor across to the rim of a ravine known as Death Valley. From there, we watch the sun sink behind a cardboard cut-out horizon of perfectly symmetrical 5000- and 6000-metre-high volcanoes while hoeing down drinks and canapés. I can’t think of a better way to end my stay.

Extreme opposites

From one end of the country, in Chile’s far north, I travel to the other, and it’s snowing. From the windswept pampas outside Punta Arenas I arrive in Puerto Bories, where the night sky is pitch black. When I catch my first glimpse of my hotel, it’s of a fleet of vehicles parked inside an elongated shed that reminds me of those I once saw filled with farm animals at the Royal Agricultural Show. These sheds housed livestock too. And, like those at the showgrounds, they’ve also been repurposed.

The redbrick buildings of The Singular Patagonia were once used as a slaughterhouse for sheep before their carcasses were shipped around the continent. The owners bravely decided to incorporate its heritage into its current incarnation as a luxury hotel, leaving much of the original machinery intact and thereby adding a twist to the average holiday stay. Power generators and steam engines that are over 100 years old remain behind glass walls and inside cavernous chambers, and an entire floor has been spared as a gallery space displaying photographs from its industrial past.

The hotel rests on the banks of the Sound of Last Hope, a fjord requiring 200km of navigation before it reaches the Pacific Ocean. Across that fjord are snow-capped Patagonian mountains – and all are visible through the window of my hotel room when I draw my curtains in the morning.

Like the Alto Atacama, excursions and tours are included in the nightly tariff and I join a cruise first up, travelling up the fjord to the foot of two glaciers – Serrano and Balmaceda. Later that afternoon I fossick through caves housing the skeletal remains of ancient megafauna and human troglodytes. I ride a horse for the first time in years, trotting along behind a Patagonian gaucho while condors soar overhead. And then I hike to the base of the three granite spires inside Torres del Paine National Park, taking all day to reach them.

Tierra del Fuego lies further south of here. I’ll be joining a cruise next, sailing through this ‘Land of Fire’ at the tip of the continent. Explorers once branded this archipelago of glacier-capped islands and fjords the ‘End of the World’. For me though, it will be a whole new beginning – and a chance for Chile to reveal more of itself.

Originally published in Get Up & Go Magazine - Summer 2017

September 28, 2019

AirAsia: An Asian airline success story




Australia’s love affair with Thailand just seems to strengthen every year. By the time you read this, arrivals from Australia will have surpassed the 800,000 per year mark, placing pressure on our airlines and airports to deliver and receive these visitors.

Currently the majority of arrivals are through Bangkok’s two busy hubs, Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK), the latter being the dedicated hub for Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) such as for Nok Air, Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air.

Founded in 2001, Air Asia has been the dominant LCC in Asia having just won Skytrax’s ‘World's Best Low-Cost Airline’ for the 11th successive year and recently logged their 600 millionth passenger.

A true ‘pan-Asia’ airline, AirAsia serves more than 150 destinations across 400 routes with 250 modern A320 and A330 Airbus aircraft. To achieve this comprehensive coverage, AirAsia operates more than 11,000 weekly flights and utilises 23 airports (hubs) across Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Philippines and Japan.

AirAsia X Airbus A330-300

Latest news from the airline is direct long-haul flights from Bangkok to Brisbane on spacious AirAsia X Airbus A330 aircraft and includes a new ‘Red Carpet Service’ with a dedicated check-in area, priority baggage delivery, complimentary lounge access and express boarding for guests departing Brisbane International Airport.

The airline projects to carry up to 150,000 people between the two cities over the next year on the XJ 310/311 flight pair which will operate four times a week.

The ‘Red Carpet Service’ is offered in conjunction with Plaza Premium Lounge and is available for pre-booking at airasia.com for just AUD$75 and offers up to three hours of lounge access, complimentary food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and shower facilities.

AirAsia also offers ‘Red Carpet Service’ at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok.

The wide body 377-seat Airbus A330-300 is the mainstay of the long-haul arm of AirAsia, Air Asia X, with state-of-the-art A330neos soon to be introduced on this route, an Australian first.

AirAsiaX Premium Flatbed on the A330 (supplied)

These aircraft also incorporate the Premium Flatbed service in the forward cabin. The 12 seats come with a privacy screen, an adjustable head and foot rest, as well as a pillow and duvet. This premium service also includes extra baggage allowance (40kg), meals, in-flight entertainment and lounge access.

Traveloscopy test flew the new Brisbane route with the Premium Flatbed service on the return leg (via KL to Sydney) and found the service everything it claimed to be. Of course, it’s not directly comparable to full service business class, but then you must consider the price. While there was no inflight entertainment in economy on the outward leg, AirAsia assures us this feature will be added via mobile app very shortly. On our premium leg, we were provided a preloaded tablet with a selection of movies and other entertainment.

Preordered Economy class meal. (RE)

Meals are comparable to economy class on the better full service airlines and includes such choices as the highly recommended nasi lemak, spaghetti marinara, chicken satay or a cheese omelette with mushrooms, baked beans and chicken sausage. Soft drinks are included, but alcohol must be purchased.

The seat pitch is 60 inches, expanding to 77 inches when fully extended. Width is 20 inches. While the description is ‘full flat’, it is not full horizontal as the seat has a slight downward slope when fully extended. There are two reading lights and a handy universal powerpoint under the seat. Plus you can rest your laptop on the sturdy tray table. There’s also space for storing shoes, recesses for magazines or an iPad, and a small pocket for headphones and water bottles.



We visited the Red Lounge in Kuala Lumpur’s LCC terminal KLIA2 before boarding D7-222 to Sydney. The split level lounge, while not large, has a convivial ‘clubhouse’ feel with plenty of table and bench space with connections for laptops and USB charging. Food is hot ‘finger food’ style snacks such as chicken wings, rice, pasta and noodles. Soft drinks are freely available with canned beer available at extra cost (AUD5). There are two showers and upstairs is an open ‘chill out’ space with bean bags, so you could grab a nap if it doesn’t get too noisy.

AirAsia is one of Asia’s airline success stories with increasing profit, market share and passenger numbers where many other airlines are struggling to break even. If you are looking for a no frills yet quality airline offering, AirAsia get our thumbs up.


September 27, 2019

Abu Dhabi: Out of the shadows



Build it and they will come. And so they do – in rapidlyescalating numbers. Glenn A. Baker discovered the dazzle of Abu Dhabi.

What has been built is a hotel on the scale of the Palace of Versailles, a Formula 1 race circuit, an international tennis complex, skyscrapers, museums and galleries (with an actual Guggenheim and Louvre to come), African and domestic game parks, golf courses, shopping malls, a Ferrari amusement park, a ‘fun city’, scattered outdoor artworks, a heritage village, gardens, a camel market and a zoo. And watching the horizon there, it seems that something new, something imaginative and innovative is springing up between blinks.

For many years Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, provided the wealth and steadying hand for the Dubai miracle, content to watch from a distance as Dubai dazzled the world. But then it emerged from the shadows determined to shift some of the global focus to itself. The establishment and incredible rise of Etihad Airlines ensured that visitors did come – agog tourists and those whose transfer hub was no longer automatically the traditional Asian ports.

Abu Dhabi had a big sell to accomplish. The perception of this part of the world has long been desert dunes, empty quarters, desolation, unremitting heat and sparseness. Bahrain and Dubai have gone a long way to erasing that particular mosaic leaving Abu Dhabi to surge as a thoroughly 21st century destination – modern, sleek and enticing – one that exercises the imagination.

Well, it certainly exercises its visitors. For those who do come tend to not sit still for long. Abu Dhabi is not a destination for wallflowers. Here you strap yourself in and soar, swoop, glide and bump to behold.

If you’re not gazing upon arresting artworks or catching film festival screenings then it’s a fair bet that you’re out of your plush hotel and dune bashing in four-wheel drives, hot air ballooning, sand boarding and skiing, desert camping, biking, catching camel and horse races, slicing about on catamarans, snorkelling and kayaking, subjecting your limbs to henna art, going on helicopter excursions, riding a Big Bus and becoming acquainted with the ancient and noble tradition of falconing.

Opulence is the motif

Tradition and history can be a rewarding pursuit in this Persian Gulf nation. The temptation, when you are in Abu Dhabi, is to shoot up to bustling Dubai because of its proximity – just a 90-minute drive on a wide highway. Fewer visitors think of taking a journey out to one of the 200 islands that are an essential part of the emirate; a group of them have been linked together as the ‘multi-experimental’ Desert Islands, some 240km off the mainland, a half hour small jet flight away.

At the heart is the largest, Sir Bani Yas. The title has nothing at all to do with some old English gentleman but refers to the Bani Yas tribe who took up residence on the ancient island thousands of years ago – an island that has been featuring in European literature for centuries.

The island is home to the only discovered (20 years ago) Christian monastery in the UAE, which dates back almost 1500 years which is open to the public. So too is the Arabian Wildlife Park and bird sanctuary, a touch of Africa in the Middle East established in 1971 by the UAE founder Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nayhan as part of his ‘Greening of the Desert’ program. Now by his son, the current ruler, it boasts more than 10,000 free-roaming animals and occupies a good half of the island. The most dramatic shapes in the landscape are seven giraffe but there are also ostrich, hyenas, oryx, gazelles, antelopes, urial and barbary sheep and a couple of cheetah. In the seas, a protected marine park, dolphin and sea turtles can be spotted.

Now opulence is almost an Abu Dhabi motif, as anyone who has moved across the lobby of the extraordinary Emirates Palace Hotel holding their jaw shut can attest. So it seems almost proper to arrive at the Desert Islands Resort & Spa after you have been collected from the small airport.

The Anantara hotel group, which also operates the impressive Eastern Mangroves Hotel in Abu Dhabi proper, has moved into the emirate in a big way. Their vehicles make it possible for you to range across the Arabian Wildlife Park with a quality guide, as well as hike into the world’s oldest salt-dome mountains, investigate the island’s wellstocked stables and then participate in riding, archery and snorkelling across the reef. The restaurants and creature comforts have you wondering if you have actually left ever-evolving Abu Dhabi city.

It doesn’t take long to understand just what drives that evolution and the spectacular growth you see all around you from the moment your flight touches down. Forbes and CNN have both declared Abu Dhabi (which means Father of Deer) to be the richest city in the world and when money is no obstacle, then possibilities, if not exactly unlimited, are within far easier grasp.


Originally published in
Get Up & Go, Winter 2014






September 25, 2019

Trentino Alto Adige: High on the Dolomites



Words: Michèle Shah

The majestic range of Alpine mountains, situated in northeastern Italy, reachable from above the city of Bolzano in the region of Trentino Alto Adige, are among those wonders of the world, not to be missed.  The Dolomites, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites is mountain range of 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 metres, featuring breathtaking vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys.  This is where you will find some outstanding mountain viticulture.

As a travel destination, Trentino-Alto Adige’s proximity to the Dolomites provides one with a choice of top ski resorts with alpine trekking in summers.  It also boasts the highest density of excellent eating in Italy, including three starred Michelin restaurants, all within a radius of 15km and each annexed to traditional ‘gemutlich’ hotels.   Spectacular vineyards producing fine wines make it one of the few regions to provide such a wide choice of hedonist pleasures.

Trentino (the province of Trento) and Alto Adige (the more northerly province of Bolzano, also known as the South Tyrol or Südtirol, bordering Austria, unified to Italy in 1919, after World War I, share a range of fragrant white wines and German-accented syllables. Both Trentino and the Alto Adige produce notable amounts of the popular Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon, as well as Pinot Bianco, and Riesling.  While the more aromatic Müller-Thurgau,  Moscato, Sylvaner and Gewürztraminer, which is said to take its name from Alto Adige village of Tramin, can be enticingly perfumed and unexpectedly ageworthy.

Winemaking in Alto Adige (Florian Andergassen)

One main distinction between Trentino and Alto Adige is that production in Alto Adige comes mainly from small family-owned estates that sell their wines locally with limited exports to Germany and Austria. Trentino on the other hand counts on a large number of growers, members of large cooperatives, such as Cavit and Mezzacorona. These popular wines have found their niche, both in Italy and abroad, among wine drinkers who look for reasonably good and affordable wines for daily enjoyment.

Alto Adige is divided by its waterways, the Adige River and the Isarco River, thus creating two valleys. The vineyards are dotted around the banks of the rivers rising from an altitude of 200 to 1,000 metres into the hills. Bolzano to Trento is an easy 60km and indications are well sign posted with good restaurants, hotels and excellent wineries on the way.

If you are a keen skier take a few days off to ski in the Dolomites at San Cassiano, a picturesque 70 km drive northeast of Bolzano.  In this way descending from the Dolomites make your first stop at Abbazia di Novacella, one of the most northern vineyards in Italy.  This 1142 Augustinian Abbey is a fascinating intrigue of vineyards and monastery, producing classy Sylvaner, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Riesling with zesty acidity due to the altitude of the vines at 870 metres.

Cooperatives in Trentino-Alto Adige, go as far back as the Hapsburg Empire and are quite common representing the lion’s share of production. Cooperative farming in Trentino-Alto Adige played a fundamental role, its success stems from the necessity to create an effective economic system for the region’s fragmented farming industry, including that of viticulture, the average grape grower owns little more than 1ha, and most vineyards rise up the mountainsides as spectacular steep terraced vineyards, some still using the ‘pergola’ system.

Alto Adige delights (Marion Lafogler)

Cantina Terlano, a cooperative founded in 1893, just above Bolzano at Terlano is one of the best expressions of ‘heroic vineyards’ in Alto Adige producing exquisite white wines, in particular its Pinot Blanc from the terraced Vorberg vineyards. Well worth the drive to visit the vineyards above Terlan.  Cantina Caldaro another model cooperative with vineyards overlooking Lake Caldaro, the perfect area to samples the region’s local red varieties such as Lagrein, a deep garnet red, with round soft tannins and a lighter Schiava or St Maddalena which is 90% Schiava and 10% Lagrein.

In the area of Lake Caldaro it is certainly worth visiting Count Michael Graf Goéss-Enzenberg  ‘eco-sensitive’ Manincor winery producing excellent Pinot Noir, Moscato Giallo and Moscato Rosa.  Travelling a short journey further south to the village of Magré, Alois Lageder’s picturesque Löwengang winery, built in 1995 in accordance with strict environmental and ecological criteria is definitely worth a visit, where you can relax at Vineria Paradeis on the old village square and enjoy anything form a good glass of wine to light meal.
Il ARUNDA Talento Metodo Classico Extra Brut

Between Caldaro and Magré be sure to visit Martin Foradori’s Hostätter, one of Alto Adige’s historic estates established in 1907 in Termeno (Tramin), especially to experience the zesty aromatic Gewurtztraminer of Tramin, his majestic single vineyard Pinot Noir Barthenau, Vinga S. Urbano and local Lagrein.  Bolzano is one of Alto Adige’s top areas for red wines.  The surrounding chain of mountains creates a perfect microclimate characterized by warm summers protecting the vines, giving good ripeness.

As we reach Trentino the wineries Endrizzi at San Michele all’Adige and Elisabetta Foradori’s biodynamic estate at Mezzolombardo, close to each other are a very good introduction to the area’s distinctive red indigenous Teroldego, characterized by it’s deep granite hue and soft tannins. Suggest you call before visiting.

Trentino, which pioneered sparkling wine making by the classic method early in the century, has retained its leading position and these sparklers are now grouped under Trentodoc appellation. They are predominantly Chardonnay based, and the extensive amounts of Chardonnay in Trentino’s vineyards reflects the importance of this production.  A visit to Ferrari, one of the oldest sparkling estates is a real eye-opener to premium Italian sparkling wines.

South of Trento two distinctively different estates show up for the quality of their wines.  The first near Volano is home to Eugenio Rosi, a controversial, yet authentic production of the indigenous Marzemino wine and slightly further south near Avis is the San Leonardo estate, home to one of Italy’s premium Bordeaux style blends. Suggest you call before visiting.


My perfect day in the Dolomites

Morning

Stay and Breakfast at Hotel Pacherhof in Novacella. Visit the Abby of Novacella and enjoy a wine tasting of winemaker Urban von Klebelsberg’s mineral whites the Abbey’s Enoteca. Drive south 65 km to Cantina Terlano in Terlano, especially good for mineral white wines from their Praepositus range characterized by depth and minerality. Ask for Judith Unterholtzner marketing assistant. They also have a good shop where you can purchase wines of current vintages and backdated vintages. Take a drive above Terlano to the Vorberg vineyards.

Lunch

Drive 10km south to Appiano and have a light lunch at Enoteca Pillhof. If the weather is good they have a wonderful courtyard for al fresco eating. The wine list is extensive and you can choose from a good range of local wines even by the glass. The cuisine is local and changes according to the season and local ingredients.

Afternoon

Drive a short 8km to Lake Caldaro and visit the vineyards around the lake. Visit Manincor estate, or if you wish to stock up on wines take a visit to Cantina Caldaro’s ‘Winecenter’, a large shop and tasting room on several floors. Here you can explore their entire range of wines. Especially good for red wines: Lagrain, Pinot Noir and the lighter Schiava – a light and versatile wine. 25km further south visit Hofstatter in Termeno, one of Alto Adige’s premium wineries but also with a good range of entry-level wines. Be sure to taste the Gewurtztraminer, which is said to originate from Termeno. Excellent Pinot Noir Barthenau and Mazzon.

Evening/overnight

Drive 5km from Termeno to Cortaccia and stay at the Turmhotel Schwarz Adler and soak in the South Tyrolian atmosphere and hospitality. Also has a spa and gourmet restaurant. If you wish to dine out try Gasthaus “Zur Rose”, serving gourmet and seasonal traditional dishes cooked in a modern and light twist with good local wine list.


Where to stay, eat and shop

HOTELS

Hotel Rosalpina, San Cassiano (BZ)

Relais & Chateaux hotel and spa and individually styled rooms some with fireplaces, lots of use of light pinewood, balconies with views of dolomites, great place for relaxing and skiing. Excellent food at the Wine Bar & Grill or the two starred Michelin restaurant St Hubertus.

Annual gourmet ski safari and wine ski safari organized on skis at an altitude of over 2000 metres by www.altabadia.org

www.rosalpina.it

Schwarz Adler Turmhotel, Cortaccia (BZ)

Cozy Tyrolean style hotel with 24 rooms well situated with nice views over the vineyards and mountains. Good for a stop over and has a spa and gourmet restaurant.

www.turmhotel.it

PacherHof, Novacella (BZ)

Friendly Tyrolean style hotel with an excellent spa and an outside infinity pool with great views over vineyards, Novacella Abbey and the dolomites. Comfortable place for a stop-over with the possibility of dining in the old ‘stube’ where they also serve an excellent breakfast. Pacherhof also has its own winery and wines.

www.pacherhof.com

Hotel America, Trento (TN)

Centrally located, clean and functional hotel in Trento with good parking possibilities. The historical centre of Trento is full of character, in particular the main Cathedral square. Trento is also a good place for shopping.

www.hotelamerica.it

RESTAURANTS

St Hubertus, Hotel Rosalpina, San Cassiano (BZ)

Superb gourmet 2 star Michelin restaurant with Chef Norbert Niederkofler at the helm and head sommelier Christian Rainer who has a magnificent wine list of 1900 labels. Norbert’ research and culinary style, is deeply rooted in the use of local seasonal quality products sourced from local organic farmers who farm according to Norbert’s specifications. His essence, as he likes to put it, is ‘back to roots and pure flavours’.

www.rosalpina.it/restaurant-st-hubertus.htm

La Siriola, Hotel Ciasa Solares, San Cassiano (BZ)

La Siriola, one star Michelin Restaurant, just two kilometers outside San Cassiano is housed in the Ciasa Salares Hotel. Chef Matteo Metullio, age 25 is Italy’s youngest star-studded chef. La Siriola offers four tasting menus, each one themed to local traditional fare or to a more daring intermingling of flavours and ingredients. Matteo’s creative streak is well balanced in texture and flavors and is what makes his cuisine tantalizingly appealing.

www.siriolagroup.it/eng/la-siriola/restaurant-la-siriola

Gasthaus “Zur Rose”, Cortaccia (BZ)

Cozy wood paneled two room restaurant takes one back to another era, where one can relax and dine by candlelight, savouring some of Alto Adige’s traditional dishes, today prepared in a lighter fashion. Good wine list and romantic atmosphere. Good value.

www.baldoarno.com

Enoteca Pillhof, Appiano (BZ)

Pleasant atmosphere, whether eating outside al fresco or in the inviting wine bar which has some smaller areas for more intimate dining. Impressive selection of wines and very tasty dishes, excellent selection of cheeses and local cured meats. Good value.

www.pillhof.com

Ristorante La Cacciatora, Mezzocorona (TN)

This very local restaurant is always busy. The food and the service are good even on the busiest of Sunday’s. Main dishes are the local cured meats, followed by risotto or pasta, hearty meat dishes and home made desserts. Menus change regularly. Good value.

www.lacacciatora.net

Ristorante Scrigno del Duomo (TN)

Fantastic location on the main Piazza del Duomo in Trento. Creative gourmet food prepared with fresh seasonal ingredients. Good place to stop for a light lunch or a romantic dinner. Good value for lunch.

www.scrignodelduomo.com

SHOPPING

Vinum Alto Adige in the centre of Bolzano, has a great assortment of wines that they will on request ship to a number of countries. http://www.vinum.it

Enoteca Grado 12, Largo G. Carducci, 12 Trento in the centre of Trento a well-reputed wine shop with a selection of 1500 lables and good selection of olive oils. (no website)

Fact file (based on Federdoc 2013 stats)

Planted area

The region vineyards cover 13,137.00 hectares

Grape varieties

Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco, Riesling. Müller-Thurgau, Moscato, Sylvaner Riesling, Gewürztraminer. Lagrein, Teroldego, Marzemino, Schiava, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc.

Production

Yearly wine production is 958,000 hectoliters - 45% white, 55% red

GETTING THERE

Either fly to Verona and rent a car and drive up to Trento then Bolzano. It is 150km from Verona to Bolzano and about 97km from Verona to Trento. Or fly direct to Bolzano. There are plenty of flights from London to Verona, fewer to Bolzano. Ryanair flies to Treviso (near Venice) which is 134km