Saturday, February 22, 2020

Renon Plateau – the Belle Epoque in the heart of the Dolomites



by Simon Tancred / Hidden Italy

“We are divinely content here in the Renon, where, I’m pleased to say, I have discovered the sweet art of doing nothing”.

When Sigmund Freud and his missus holidayed in the lovely hill station of Collalbo in the foothills of the Dolomites in 1911, it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Sigmund took a cog-wheel train from the main square of Bolzano, the bustling regional capital, that climbed nearly one thousand metres before levelling out to roll across the undulating pastures of the Renon plateau.  These days a spectacular cable car does the climb from Bolzano to Soprabolzano, the first of the Renon towns, in a fraction of the time, but the historic train still runs from here to the towns of the district.



It is over one hundred years since the area passed under Italian control (booty from the First World War) but it has lost none of its Imperial charm: German is still the first language; dirndls and lederhosen are not uncommon; canederli, speck, and goulash can be enjoyed around the warmth of a ‘stube’; timber farmhouses trimmed with geraniums cluster around onion-domed churches surrounded by rolling snow-covered fields, all framed by the towering peaks of the Odle Dolomites, the most beautiful mountains in the world.

The Renon has long been a holiday destination for the good burghers of Bolzano and their families: escaping the heat in the summer and embracing the ‘winterfrische’ of the colder months.  Picturesque towns buzz with lively pubs, craft markets and horse-drawn carriages.  The Belle Epoque villas of local aristocracy, tucked away in the forests, have been converted into beguiling small hotels.  There is always plenty of snow, with the main ski fields spreading between the two highest peaks, Cima Lago Nero (2,069 mts asl) and Il Corno del Renon (2,260 mts asl).  While there are some good downhill runs, the area is given over to less challenging pursuits: cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and just plain walking on groomed snow trails, including a beautiful 6 kilometre winding through forests from Collabro to Soprabolzano along the Freud Promenade.

How to get there:

By car:  Bolzano can be reaching via the A22 autostrada, heading north towards Austria from Verona.  Take the Bolzano Nord exit and head towards the city centre on State highway 12.  After 2 kms, take Via Rencio and then Via Giustina and follow this beautiful road as it climbs up to Collabro. 

In train:  Bolzano is serviced by regional trains, Eurocity trains and the super-fast Frecciarossa, all with changes at Verona.  By air:  The closest airport is Verona Catullo, 150 kms south.

Where to stay:

Hotel Belemsmans-Post (Via del Paese 8, Collabro).  A traditional, 4-star, Tyrolean hotel with 55 rooms and suites, each decorated differently from the other, which, hosted Sigmund Freud and his family in September 1911.  It is possible to book the room he stayed, including a terrace where he and Matilde celebrated their 25th anniversary.  From 123 euro per person, half-board.

Adler Lodge Ritten (Stella 20, Soprabolzano).  This exclusive, 5-star ‘eco-refuge’ surrounded by woods has a large spa that seems to be immersed in a forest.  It has 20 suites and 20 chalets, each with a sauna and fireplace.  A dream destination where you can enjoy a unique nature experience.  Double with half-board from 276 euro per person per night.

Hotel Geyerhoff (Via Geirer 13, Soprabolzano).  This excellent 3-star hotel has wonderful views of the Dolomites and its own ski-run.  It is run on sustainable principles and it’s restaurant uses organically grown, local produce.  Double with half-board from 84 euro per person.

Agriturismo Weidacherhof (Via Veihwieder 1, Collalbo).  This agriturismo is run by the Rottensteiner family and has a number of apartments and rooms set within a farm that runs cattle and sheep, has vegetable gardens and fruit trees.  The meals are based on their own produce.  It has a wellness area.  Doubles with breakfast from 109 euro.

Where to eat:

Patscheider Hof (Signato 178).  An historic farmhouse with views over the Catinaccio range, the Hof has one of the most celebrated kitchens in the area.  Their specialities include canederli (dumplings) of various types, including with mountain herbs, cheeses and speck.  Around 40 euro per person.

Unterhorn (Corno del Renon).  On the snow fields a 15 minute walk from Pemmern cable car, the ‘Corno del Renon’ restaurant has a large terrace with views of the Odle range and a warm ‘stube’ where you can enjoy classic mountain cooking.

Kaserhof (Via Geirer 26, Soprabolzano).  The Mayr family have constructed their agriturismo around an historic ‘maso’ (farmhouse) that dates from 1863.  They offer traditional cooking using local ingredients.

What to do:

Friday evening:  relax

Get there early, check-in and enjoy an aperol spritz watching the dun set over some of the most spectacular mountain in the world.  Get and early night because you will have a big day tomorrow.

Saturday:  get physical

Unlike other more dramatic parts of the Dolomites, Renon has generally gently declining slopes, given over to the more traditional types of snow activities.  Skis, sleds and snowshoes can be hired from the Ski Centre Corno Reno (Via Tann 21, Collabo).  Guided  snowshoe adventures can be organised through Josefl Innerenber – bookings, and help with accommodation etc, can be organised through the Renon Tourist Association.

Walking and snowshoeing.

There are a variety of options.  The most celebrated is the Freud Promenade, a beautiful 1.5 stroll downhill from Collabro to Soprabolzano that takes you through villages, farmland and stretches of forest.  It was originally laid out in 2006 by Francesco Marchioro, a historian of psychoanalysis.  It includes 13 benches each with (discrete) panels with Freudian aphorisms, inviting reflection and meditation.

The first ‘Certified Winter Walking Trail’ in the Dolomites starts from the Lago Nero cable car station and climbs up to Corno del Renon.  It is an easy walk and the round trip takes around 2.5 hours.  The Panoramic Trail also starts at Lago Nero, a one hour loop that has spectacular views over the peaks of the Adamello and Ortles ranges.

Cross-country skiing:

There are two cross-country routes:  La Schon, a 5 km trail that leaves from the Pemmern cable car station and the Corno del Renno to Alpeggi de Villandro, a 10 km trail that starts from Lago Nero.

Downhill skiing:

The skiing facilities start from Pemmern (1,538 mts asl).  From here you take a cableway to the intermediate station at Cima Lago Nero (2,069 mts asl).  There are two ski lifts here, one that takes you 2010 mt asl and the other that takes you to, Corno del Renon, the highest peak of the Renon plateau (2,260 mts asl), where you will find the Corno del Renon ‘rifugio (mountain lodge).  There are ten different runs, covering 13 kms.  They opened on 14 December and will close on 22 March.

Sunday:  get cultural

Explore the Renon plateau.

The simplest way to explore Renon is on the historical train that runs between Collalbo and Soprabolzano, connecting the villages and towns of the plateau.

Collabo is the largest of the towns.  Apart from its pleasant pedestrian streets and shops, the church of San Antonio has some interesting 17th-century paintings.  On Colle Piper, a nearby hill, are the remains of a pre-Roman settlement and the ruins of the medieval Stein am Ritten, the ‘stone castle’.  Collalbo also has the Ice Rink, open to the public, which also hosts international events.

Soprabolzano is at the other end of the line.  An attractive residential area with a collection of hotels and villas set in parklands.  The main attraction is Villa Toggenburg, an 18th-century museum that preserves the way of life of the Belle Epoque, including the frescoed hunting room and a number chambers decorated by Viennese ‘Secessionist’ decorators Martin Knoller and Carl Henrici.

Explore Bolzano. 

Maretsch Castle dates from the 13th Century (c) Roderick Eime

Bolzano sits in the valley below Renon, a spectacular 15-minute cable car ride down into the valley from Soprabolzano.  Located in a predominantly sunny, sheltered bowl, for centuries Bolzano has been a market town and waystation.  It's period of splendour began in the Middle Ages when it became a thriving trade centre vacillating under the rule of the Counts of Tyrol and the princely Bishops of Trento and Bressanone.

It thrived during the 17th and 18th centuries, becoming one of the most important commercial centres in Europe, a meeting place between the Germanic and Mediterranean worlds.  It retains much of the charm of this era and is a great place just to poke around, explore and enjoy a meal.

The centre of Bolzano is Piazza Walther, a large, gardened square ringed by cafes and restaurants.  It is a short walk through lanes to Via dei Portici, the narrow pedestrian street that bisects the medieval heart of the town.  The Via is lined with buzzy arcades filled with shops and cafes.  At one end is the Rathaus, the town hall, and that other is the Piazza delle Erbe, that has hosted produce markets since the Middle Ages.

Otzi, the celebrated ‘Iceman’
There are several sights to see, including the cathedral, the Gothic Domenican church (which dates from the 13th century) and the Museum of Contemporary Art but the real, and unmissable star, is the Archaeological Museum, dedicated to Otzi, the celebrated ‘Iceman’, a 40-year-old man who died over five thousand years ago and was swallowed a glacier.  In 1991, his snap-frozen body emerged.  It was virtually intact and the man (nicknamed Otzi) has revealed an enormous amount of information to scientist and historians.  This excellent and accessible museum provides a fascinating insight into the man and his world.

South Tirol Official Tourism website: http://www.suedtirol.info/

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Multi-faceted Mykonos - One Island, Many Destinations



From the cobbled streets of lively Mykonos Town to the beach clubs and restaurants of Platis Gialos, and the golden sand and Aegean blue sea at Elia Beach, modern-day Mykonos may be one island - but it boasts many ways to play…and stay.

Whether you seek a ‘flop and drop’ beach vacation, a party destination, or a holiday that’s all about local culture and cuisine, there’s a corner of Mykonos tailor-made for the time of your life.

ELIA BEACH

The longest beach on Mykonos, located on the stunning southern coastline, Elia is a world away from Mykonos’ party beaches. Renowned instead for its soft yellow sand, clear water, shaded sun loungers, water sports and culinary excellence, Elia is a popular choice for all types of travellers, from families to honeymooning couples and more. For easy daily access to Elia, stay at one of the Myconian Collection’s beautiful boutique properties which enjoy prime positions perched above the beach.

Myconian Avaton, a member of Design Hotels, is an ultra-luxe secluded property with unrivalled views and accommodation options. Boasting an impressive infinity pool, the chic Kokkino Bar, an indoor-outdoor restaurant and its very own helipad for VIP arrivals, it’s the epitome of luxe island living.

Relais & Châteaux member, Myconian Utopia, is set into rock, a soaring 300 metres above Elia Beach. Incorporating ultra-glam interiors with hand-cut local stone, Myconian Utopia is a firm favourite among couples and honeymooners. Features include unique villas, a lively late-night Pool Club and the elegant Pavilion Restaurant, acclaimed for its fresh fish, lobster and hand-reared local lamb.

A Leading Hotel of the World, Myconian Imperial boasts rustic stone walls, quirky décor, gorgeous views, gourmet dining and an expansive entertainment deck with a pool and bar. Celebrities Seafood Restaurant is a hotspot for starlit dining, while Nostos bar and Sishu Sushi Bar offer sustenance from sun-up to sunset.

With a rustic stone façade contrasting with contemporary interiors, Leading Hotel of the World, Royal Myconian, boasts a panoramic pool deck, swim-up bar, sublime Sunset Terrace and spacious rooms and suites with optional infinity pools or jacuzzis.

The Myconian Villa Collection, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Legend Collection is a unique accommodation concept which features rooms, suites and opulent villas of up to six bedrooms with private pools and outdoor jacuzzis. With international designer furniture, a vast entertainment deck, infinity pool, sun-baked terraces, the exceptional Cabbanes Fine Dining restaurant and attentive staff available to fulfil the most extravagant requests, The Myconian Villa Collection is an excellent choice for special celebrations, romantic retreats or group getaways.

PLATIS GIALOS

South from Elia Beach is Platis Gialos, a playground for the chic and cosmopolitan crowd. Visitors can enjoy life like the rich and famous among luxury yachts, fabulous fine dining and perfect people watching.

Platis Gialos is also home to Relais & Châteaux member, Myconian Ambassador Hotel, the ideal spot to base yourself for easy access to the iconic beaches of Psarou, Paradise and Super Paradise. Home to some of the island’s best luxury beach clubs including the newly opened and decadent SantAnna, and world-famous Scorpios, where you can play and stay from midday until midnight - and beyond, those with a penchant for partying will not be disappointed.

Myconian Ambassador is the ultimate destination for a taste of the hedonistic side of multi-faceted Mykonos. Here, luxe bedrooms and suites spill out onto the spectacular pool deck with glorious Aegean views, and one of the island’s top tables - Efisia Relais & Châteaux is a popular pick for candlelit dinners.

MYKONOS TOWN

It’s easy to lose yourself among the labyrinth-like cobbled streets of Mykonos Town, lined with boutiques, tiny churches, local cafes and traditional tavernas which spill out onto piazzas where impromptu post-dinner parties pop up at a moment’s notice.

Other highlights in Mykonos Town include watching the fishing boats come and go at Alefkandra Harbour; or exploring the colourful waterfront shops, homes and restaurants of the island’s own Little Venice, one of the most romantic spots on Mykonos for a sunset stroll.

Its central location makes Mykonos Town the ideal spot to stay for those keen to explore some of the island’s lesser known treasures, such as a best-kept secret, Agios Sostis, a laidback beach that’s only reachable by taxi or rental car along an unmarked road; and the village of Ano Mera, with its Monastery of Panagia Tourliani, marble fountain, purring cats and carved timber temple located just half an hour from Mykonos Town.

History aficionados will enjoy the 30-minute ferry ride to Delos, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage island which boasts epic archaeological ruins and is renowned in Greek mythology as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis; and the Church of the Panagia Paraportiani, a 15th century church located on the north western edge of Mykonos Town.

For easy access to all of Mykonos Town’s spectacular sights, the Myconian Collection Hotels & Resorts boasts three properties which are ideally situated for those who like to be close to the action. Relais & Châteaux member, Myconian Korali enjoys a prime position on the hills above the harbour and is just minutes from Little Venice and Mykonos Town. Haute cuisine, sophisticated décor and exceptional views are hallmarks of this luxe retreat which is home to Kitrino Bar and inventive dining at Baos.

The King of the Hill, and recently featured as one of the “most beautifully designed Greek island hotels” by Architectural Digest, Myconian Kyma occupies the special spot where George Daktylides set the very first stone that founded the Myconian Collection. Attracting a jet-set clientele, this Design Hotel member blends the trendy with the traditional and enjoys famous views over Little Venice and the Mykonos windmills.

Also enjoying a hillside perch overlooking Mykonos Town and the Aegean, member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, LVX Collection, Myconian Naia is an exclusive 18-suite retreat full of objets d’art, designer décor, an infinity pool, poolside bar, floating deck and gourmet Naros Restaurant serving everything from lavish breakfasts on the balcony to international fusion cuisine.

For more information, please visit: www.myconiancollection.com

Monday, January 20, 2020

Here's your Memphis music playlist





Known for its musical heartbeat, the city of Memphis is home to some of the world's most influential musicians. In recognition of the draw that the music of Memphis has for travellers, Memphis Tourism has this week launched a dedicated Music Hub, designed to help visitors find their perfect music experience.

Since no trip to Memphis would be complete without experiencing at least one aspect of the city's great music history, below is a list of essential experiences for music lovers:

Visit a historic recording studio

Memphis' music legacy is iconic, so it makes sense that the city has more recording studios than almost any other. The world famous Stax Records and Sun Studio are both crucial fixtures in the formation and history of American music, and both open to the public.

Pick up some local music vinyl

Hardcore music lovers have never lost their affinity for vinyl, but now that everyday music fans are again appreciating the joy of vinyl's distinctive sound, sales are on the rise. Memphis music stores including Shangri-La, Goner Records and Audiomedia Records all have sections dedicated not just to vinyl, but solely to Memphis music - which could see you find the best souvenir ever.

Dine at a musically historical venue

You may still want to wait in line to eat at the diner which Elvis frequented (The Arcade Restaurant), but if you make your way to Catherine & Mary's in Downtown Memphis, you'll be dining on elevated Southern American and traditional Italian cuisine at the site of the former home of the Red, Hot, & Blue radio show - the radio show was the first to play music from both black and white artists in a segregated Memphis.

Stay at the Central Station Hotel

With more than 3,500 vinyl records in the lobby - all with a Memphis connection, and a DJ playing Memphis themed playlist every night of the week, this is the perfect place to sleep for music lovers.

Take in some live music

Start at the bars, pubs and clubs of tourist hotspot of historic Beale Street, and then wander wherever your ears take you - and it won't be far. Memphis is home to an abundance of live music venues, festivals and listening rooms.

For further information about Memphis and to plan your trip: https://www.memphistravel.com/

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Experience Australia’s two Indigenous cultures


The Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region’s World Heritage areas are home to Australia’s two Indigenous cultures, which can be experienced on more than 80 tours during Queensland’s Year of Indigenous Tourism.

Dreamtime stories are woven throughout the land and waters of Cairns & Great Barrier Reef, the only destination where the culture of both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are found.

Travellers have the opportunity to interact with these cultures when they explore the World Heritage Areas of the Wet Tropics rainforest and Great Barrier Reef, as well as the accessible Outback ­– all of which are found in the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef region.

Indigenous art, dance and storytelling reveal a history stretching back more than 40,000 years. Multifaceted cultural events bring Traditional Custodians of the land together for a display of dance, art, music and fashion, while cultural centres introduce the stories and traditions of Australia’s First Nations People.

Opportunities to interact with the Traditional Custodians are plentiful. Visitors can learn to hunt mudcrab with a spear, hear Dreamtime stories alongside ancient rock art, take part in the cleansing ritual of a smoking ceremony, and look for bush food in the rainforest. They can learn about Buda-dji, the carpet snake that created the Barron River where the Djabugay people live, and hear why the Quinkans are fearsome creatures for the Kuku Yalanji people.

Events

Cooktown celebrates 250 years
Cooktown Expo 2020 is a regional showcase from July 17 to August 4, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the arrival of British explorer Lieutenant James Cook, who spent 48 days on the Endeavour River. His interaction with Cooktown’s Aboriginal people resulted in Australia’s first recorded act of reconciliation. Three key events showcase the region’s history – Reconciliation Rock Music Festival, Cooktown Discovery Festival and the Endeavour Festival. cooktown2020.com

Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival
Indigenous culture, song and dance are celebrated by more than 20 different communities at Laura, near one of UNESCO’s top 10 rock art sites, on Cape York Peninsula. The internationally recognised biannual celebration of Aboriginal culture attracts thousands of visitors to the traditional Bora ground, with the next festival taking place on 3-5 July 2020.

Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
More than 600 Indigenous visual and performing artists from communities throughout mainland Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands showcase their diverse cultures and artistic wealth at this prestigious annual event. CIAF is on 10-12 July 2020 and includes an ethical art marketplace, fashion show, cultural performances and free family activities.

Winds of Zenadth
Torres Strait Islander culture, including traditional dance with extraordinary headpieces, is on show at Winds of Zenadth, a bi-annual event where people from across the Torres Strait Islands gather to revitalise and preserve their language, art and ceremonies. Dates are being finalised for 2020. More information will become available atwww.torres.qld.gov.au.

Yarrabah Music & Cultural Festival
This free event south of Cairns features an impressive line-up of Australian musicians along with food stalls, local art, rides and cultural experiences. The festival is built upon the legacy of the Yarrabah Brass Band, which since 1901 has played a pivotal role in the community’s musical identity. The festival will be held on 10 October 2020. More information will become available at: yarrabahfest.com.au

Experiences

Jarramali Rock Art Tours
Explore one of UNESCO’s top 10 rock art sites in the world with a Traditional Custodian to see paintings dating back tens of thousands of years. Kuku Yalanji guides tell the story of the ancient Quinkan rock art and join you at a camp overnight in Cape York.

Mossman Gorge Centre
A traditional smoking ceremony welcomes you to Kuku Yalanji country at Mossman Gorge Centre. Join a Traditional Custodian on a Dreamtime walk to learn how their people sustained themselves in the world’s oldest rainforest.

Discover the Torres Strait
The history, arts and culture of the Torres Strait are uncovered on a bespoke tour with Torres Strait Eco Adventures. Guide Dirk Laifoo shares his local knowledge on tours to Waiben (Thursday Island), Muralag (Prince of Wales Island) and Ngarupai (Horn Island). The region has a rich World War II and pearling history entwined with the local Torres Strait Islander culture.

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel
Step back into the Great Barrier Reef’s Dreamtime with Indigenous sea rangers on a day tour to two spectacular outer Great Barrier Reef sites, incorporating the legends passed down by Traditional Custodians over thousands of years.

Walkabout Adventures
Traditional Custodians show how their ancestral lands are the source of Dreamtime stories and songs in a tour for just 11 people. Learn about bush foods and medicines, hunting, Aboriginal history, culture and beliefs, and experience the Indigenous connection to country.

Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park
Traditional Custodians have created a performance depicting the rainforest culture of the Djabugay people, while modern technology and live performers deliver the Djabugay Creation story. Join interactive hunting and bush food demonstrations and a night-time fire ceremony. 

Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience, Rainforestation Nature Park
Watch a ceremonial dance in the rainforest and see traditional hunting and gathering techniques before learning to throw a boomerang. Join the Dreamtime Walk along the Rainbow Serpent boardwalk for an insight into ancient Aboriginal beliefs.

Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours
Take a boat ride across Trinity Inlet to an environmental reserve at the base of Grey Peaks National Park where you are welcomed with a smoking ceremony. Enjoy dinner with authentic Indigenous dancing and entertainment. Other tours include an eco cultural tour and bush camping overnight on Indigenous lands.

Flames of the Forest
Discover the magic of the Dreamtime and dine on tropical regional produce beneath the rainforest canopy. Kuku Yalanji performers immerse you in storytelling, didgeridoo and song lines of the ancestors.

Yagurli Tours
Experience the Dreamtime stories of the Gangalidda-Garawa people under the brilliance of a pollution-free night sky on Australia’s largest salt pans or see the crimson magic of an outback sunset on a river cruise, observing the unique wildlife of the Gulf Savannah country by dusk. There is also a tag-along tour and fishing option.

Thala Beach Nature Reserve Resort
Meet Kuku Yalanji elders who share stories of culture, history and Aboriginal tradition at an eco stay on a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas. Learn about bush tucker food from traditional hunter-gatherers.

Yarrabah Arts & Cultural Precinct
The Yarrabah Arts Centre, Menmuny Museum and a rainforest boardwalk are part of the Arts and Cultural Precinct showcasing local culture, history and art including pottery, woven baskets and textiles.

Janbal Gallery Painting Workshop
Learn traditional Aboriginal painting techniques and see Brian “Binna” Swindley and his mother Shirley’s works depicting Dreamtime stories, Kuku Yalanji life, the animals of the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics Rainforest.

Adventure North Australia
Meet the custodians of the world’s oldest rainforest to try traditional fishing and gathering techniques from the Kubirri Warra clan and discover traditional soap, bush food and ochre paint on a rainforest walk at Mossman Gorge.

Culture Connect
Join a guided tour or private charter to traditional country in the World Heritage Daintree rainforest and the tropical savannah country of Cape York. Experience festivals and events on the Indigenous cultural calendar from a unique perspective.

Down Under Tours
Experience Aboriginal culture with a trip including Mossman Gorge Centre and their Dreamtime Walk, Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park’s shows, and Rainforestation Nature Park where the Pamagirri Aboriginal Dancers explain Aboriginal culture.

Indigenous Art Centres
Remote art centres can be found at Aboriginal communities throughout Cape York. You can see the renowned camp dog carvings of Aurukun’s Wik and Kugu people, the ghost net weavings from Pormpuraaw, and the internationally acclaimed work of Lockhart River’s Art Gang.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Northern Territory: Come down to Earth



Uluru is one of the most spiritual places on earth, with every lizard track in the ochre-red soil, every nuance of light, and every nook and cranny of the rock itself catching your eye and impacting on your senses.

From the mournful notes of the didgeridoo, played around the fire on a distant sand dune as an appetiser to the incredible gourmet experience that is Tali Wiru, the feeling of place is omnipresent, with the stories of the dreaming coming to life as vividly as the 60,000 light stems creating the Field of Light do; an experience that moves some people to tears.

If you’re looking for instant gratification, Kakadu may elude you. Carved and sculpted over countless eons, the prehistoric vistas of this UNESCO World Heritage site are ancient even to those who have lived there for tens of thousands of years.

Vast marshy wetlands surrounded by stark sandstone cliffs have withstood the test of time and stand proud, oblivious to your presence. The sight of a massive grazing brontosaurus would not be out of place in this otherworldly landscape.

Today you can tour these timeless monoliths with an indigenous guide, learning some of the mysteries and stories of the Dreamtime and discover the myths behind the stunning frescos painted by the ancestors.

Easily visited during the day from either Darwin or Katherine, scenic Litchfield National Park is ideal for either long or short stay visitors with picnic facilities for day visitors and camping options for long-stayers who can’t get enough. Bring the family and swim, hike or fish in these tranquil surrounds.

You don’t have to go after nature in the NT – it comes to you. Spending time “glamping” at any one of the superbly appointed safari camps or coastal resorts is an experience only the NT can deliver. Two examples include Murwangi and Groote Eylandt.



Heat comes in a range of sights and flavours in the Northern Territory. There is even the odd blazing light show at sunrise and sunset. Darwin’s wet season delivers plenty of water to Australia’s thirsty Top End, and in conjunction with these downpours is nature’s own atmospheric spectacular in the form of awe-inspiring lighting and tummy-rumbling thunder. Unless you’ve seen Darwin in nature’s grip, the power of the tropical storm is hard to imagine.

In a culinary sense, the region’s “beer and barra” reputation has morphed into condensation-laced cocktails on the waterfront and Greek-spiced seafood alongside hot and sour fish at the city’s hottest Vietnamese, Chow, or industrial-chic Korean barbecue at urban sweetheart Little Miss Korea. The city moves en masse to sunset-gilded Mindil Beach every Sunday to gossip in deck chairs and dip spoons into green pandan pudding or rocket-topped pizzas, woodfired right here in the markets. While locals have been spoiled by local freshness from Darwin’s multiple markets for ages, the restaurants are now working together in co-ops, with new-generation ideas on how to keep ingredients local and food miles low. From Alleycat Patisserie’s hipster cronuts to Eat at Martin’s vibrant vegetarian creations, Darwin has added new soul and eagerness to its gastronomic offerings. Then there are the Hanuman restaurants in Darwin and Alice Springs.

Elsewhere, Tasting the NT is a dining experience you can’t have anywhere else. Sampling the natural foods of the indigenous people is a window to their rich and ancient culture that has sustained them for thousands of years while empires in the rest of the world have grown and crumbled many times over.

Ayers Rock Resort has launched a new Bush Tucker Trail that takes guests on a journey of Indigenous flavour discovery as they try signature dishes incorporating bush ingredients at every restaurant throughout the Resort. Experience flavours such as Lemon Myrtle, Kakadu Plum, Bush Tomato and Wattleseed in a range of meals. In addition to menu items, a number of Bush Tucker cocktails have also been developed.

Then there’s Parrtjima - a Festival in Light - the first authentic indigenous light festival of its kind in the world. It features Australia's biggest-ever light show installation, with more than 2.5km of the MacDonnell Ranges being illuminated as part of the event. The contemporary and traditional indigenous art will light up Alice Springs. A featured installation will be a series of large illuminated 1950's-style circle skirts featuring the watercolour artwork of Lenie Namatjira, granddaughter of renowned artist Albert Namatjira.

New Zealand: Best of business destinations



Words: Roderick Eime

Sure, New Zealand has some of the greatest scenery, best wines and friendliest people, which is why holding a business conference or convention there makes perfect sense.

What’s more, the New Zealand Government is serious about making the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ an increasingly compelling destination with annual budget stimulation directed specifically at bolstering international business events over the coming years.

New Zealand, sometimes referred to by its evocative Māori name, Aotearoa, has numerous existing conference and convention venues, as well as proposed new venues including a $402 million New Zealand International Convention Centre (construction due to begin in December 2015) in Auckland, which will be capable of accommodating 3500 people, plus newly opened convention centres in Christchurch and Queenstown.

Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch regularly host high-level, international conferences and major national events, but even smaller centres like Queenstown and Rotorua should not be discounted thanks to their excellent offerings of both accommodation and outdoor activities.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these cities and see what’s on offer.

In the premier city of Auckland, which captures 70 per cent of all international arrivals to New Zealand, the larger venue options range from ASB Theatre in Auckland’s Aotea Centre to the huge Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton, half way down the road to Rotorua on the North Island. The new Viaduct Events Centre is ideally placed within a vibrant, modern precinct and able to seat 1200 delegates in a banquet setting. Auckland Town Hall, the Civic Theatre and the versatile SKYCITY complex should all be considered when planning any event.

Auckland also presents a wide range of out-of-hours, break-out and pre- and post-conference options that allow delegates to inject some quality leisure and enrichment into what may otherwise be a gruelling schedule. Sailing on Auckland Harbour, cruising in the scenic Hauraki Gulf or touring the Twin Coast Highway to the Northland region into dense forests, fringed by golden beaches are just some of the choices.

At the base of the North Island is Wellington, the political capital of New Zealand and hometown to acclaimed filmmaker, Sir Peter Jackson. Served by major international carriers like Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar, the international airport is an easy to navigate hub, a short distance from the city centre.

Obviously, with the city being the seat of power, it is well served with modern convention and meeting facilities ranging from contemporary and hi-tech, like the benchmark Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, to the more traditional such as the historic Wellington Town Hall and Michael Fowler Centre, both venues linked by a convenient footbridge.

Despite a modest population of around 400,000, Wellington is a spectacularly located city with a dramatic mountain backdrop and wide picturesque harbour. There are plenty of activities and attractions right along the foreshore including museums, restaurants and retail to occupy visitors and provide a refreshing recess. The iconic red cable car is just one attraction that must be experienced. Major accommodation offerings are all within an easy stroll, in fact, you can walk from one end of the business district to the other in under 20 minutes.

Delegates can enjoy gourmet tours right in the city centre or venture a little further out to the countryside where Wellington is embraced by thriving wine districts like Wairarapa just an hour north of the CBD. Nature lovers will enjoy the Karori Sanctuary Experience where, among other highlights, visitors can see the famous flightless Kiwi that is inextricably linked to the folklore of New Zealand.

Also on the North Island is the famously volcanic city of Rotorua, a tourist destination long enjoyed by generations of New Zealanders and internationals alike. Situated around the shores of its stunning namesake lake, this and other nearby lakes and rivers enable a range of aquatic activities like day cruises, hiking, picnicking, fly-fishing and jet-boating.

Prime venues like the lakeside Rotorua Energy Events Centre and the central Rotorua Convention Centre are ideal for several hundred guests with the exciting Skyline Rotorua, perched imperiously atop Mt Ngongotaha, an ideal secondary venue for a climactic banquet dinner or impressive cocktail function.

Beyond the city, delegates can enjoy a relaxing round of golf at some of the best courses in New Zealand or adrenalin sports such as whitewater rafting, snow skiing, zorbing or even a breathtaking plunge on the massive Swoop super swing. But it’s the geothermal attractions and their connection to Māori folklore that have made a name for Rotorua. A spectacular show is made of an indigenous feast under the stars at Te Puia thermal reserve, the whole proceedings set against a magnificent flood-lit geyser. 

Across Cook Strait is the larger, but more sparsely populated South Island, renowned for spectacular mountain scenery and some of the world’s best cool-climate wines. A big call certainly, but after sampling some of the stellar Pinot Noir and Riesling on offer, few coming away disputing this claim.

The centre of tourism on the South Island is Queenstown, located in a spectacular alpine setting on the shore of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, this casual yet cosmopolitan city is a firm favourite among conference and event planners who cater for up to around 1500 people. Again, air links are regular and frequent with international flights arriving directly into the airport just a short distance from the city.

Most of the meeting venues are those within the world-class hotels, lodges and resorts sprinkled around the township and wider Wakatipu Basin where the encircling Central Otago region is best known for award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.  Such proximity to attractions and activities like golf, adrenalin sports and skiing, make Queenstown a ‘slam dunk’ for organisers looking to inject ‘wow factor’ in their event. Venues including the spectacular Skyline Queenstown, perched atop Bobs Peak and offering panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range, are just too easy a choice.

Any mention of South Island locations should not overlook Christchurch, Canterbury district’s glorious ‘Garden City’. Yes, the city took a blow in the 2011 earthquake but has been vigorously rebuilding ever since and bending over backwards to attract tourists and businesses back to this classically British-styled city.

Also a major international gateway, Christchurch Airport has a surprising number of overseas routes including Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

With its expansive Botanic Garden and many Gothic Revival buildings by architect Benjamin Mountfort, the city has the distinct character of a large English country town. Venues here are like none offered elsewhere in New Zealand and allow planners to construct distinctly memorable events within such venues as the Air Force Museum or International Antarctic Centre where guests can don heavy polar attire and experience, first hand, the sensation of visiting the deep Antarctic.

Beyond the city, the wider Canterbury district offers superb touring and sightseeing in the lush countryside that includes the rich Waipara region, home to yet more of New Zealand’s famous wines. Skiing at Mount Hutt is less than two hours by road and the famous TranzAlpine is quoted by many experts as one of the top railway journeys in the world. The little satellite town of Methven even offers hot air balloon rides where dawn breaks majestically over the surrounding farmlands in an awe-inspiring spectacle.

Anyone who’s never visited New Zealand might be inclined to suspect some overzealous description of these locations, but be assured that once visited, the veracity of these claims is quickly verified. What’s more, New Zealand is serious about attracting your MICE business and dedicated staff are on hand to guide you through the planning process.



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How to Celebrate NYE in NYC




New Year's Eve is a defining moment in New York City, serving as a beacon for the world as people collectively reflect on the previous year and welcome the next. As more than one million visitors prepare to celebrate across the five boroughs, the City's hotels and attractions are ready to welcome the next decade in only-in-NYC fashion.

Below is a roundup of Times Square activities, hotel parties and New Year's Eve events throughout NYC that will emphasise the City's reputation as the most iconic destination to ring in the new year.

Times Square

While the iconic Ball Drop is certainly the centre of the festivities, visitors can celebrate the holiday days in advance of the event viewed around the world.

Seven-foot tall numbers "2" and "0" will be displayed in mid-December and available for a pre-NYE photoshoot in various Times Square Plazas until they are hoisted atop One Times Square as celebratory décor, the week leading up to the big event.

On December 28, from 12-1 pm, locals and travellers are invited to enjoy Good Riddance Day at the Broadway Plaza in Times Square where bad memories are eliminated via a giant shredder.

From December 1-29, visit the Wishing Wall in Times Square Plaza to share your hopes and dreams for 2020, which will be dropped as confetti when the clock strikes midnight. Electronic wishes can be submitted here or on social media using #ConfettiWish.

The nearly 6-ton ball, covered with 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, is capable of lighting up the night from One Times Square, with more than 16 million different colours.

Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve will broadcast the Times Square festivities globally with the help of performances by superstar performers (to be announced) and host Ryan Seacrest.

Global viewers can also visit TimesSquareNYC.org, NewYearsEve.nyc and TimesSquareBall.net to watch the annual event.

Can't-Miss Hotel Bashes

The Times Square Edition is celebrating its first New Year's Eve in five-star fashion with a three-party extravaganza including ticketed events at 701 West, The Paradise Club, and The Terrace Outdoor Rooftop and Gardens. Each celebration includes dinner, open bar, and a world-class DJ/live music. At 701 West and The Terrace, guests will have access to the hotel's outdoor porch with views of the Time Square ball drop.

The New York Marriott Marquis will celebrate by hosting a party with 360-degree views of the ball drop that includes a red-carpet entry, luxury dinner buffet & dessert bar, specialty cocktails, open bar, and VIP access to the patio overlooking Times Square.

The Moxy Times Square is ringing in the modern-day roaring 20's with a unique brand of fun with an event at the Magic Hour Rooftop. The "urban amusement park" is the largest indoor/outdoor all-season hotel rooftop bar in NYC and features five distinct areas including a lounge, outdoor garden, gallery entrance and outdoor putt-putt course with an adult carnival vibe.

The Peninsula New York's Salon de Ning will be transformed into a chic, dome-covered, penthouse where guests will enjoy a cocktail party with open bar, live music and plenty of dancing, as well as temporary popup Chalet de Ning.

The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, is ringing in 2020 with dual celebrations including two dinner parties featuring prix-fixe menus, live jazz music and midnight champagne toast at its signature restaurant, Perrine and a more casual celebration featuring dancing, open bar, raw bar, DJ and more at the Two E Lounge.

At Party on Park Avenue at the Loews Regency Hotel, guests will enjoy a night of glitz and glamor in a stylish suite on Manhattan's Upper East Side complete with a 3-hour open-bar cocktail reception, hors d'oeuvres and champagne toast at midnight.

The Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island , situated in the heart of protected woodlands, is hosting its annual New Year's Eve Gala with a "Roarin' 20's" theme this year in the picturesque Nicotra's Ballroom, complete with 10-piece band.

Festive Events

The only casino in New York City's five boroughs, Resorts World Casino, will celebrate at Bar360 with a night of concerts that includes a performance by Bronx native Judy Torres and a Black and White Ball hosted by Chef Garfield and Deejay Roy. Guests are also encouraged to explore the casinos 4,200 slot machines and 1,300 electronic table games.

Visitors are invited to ring in the New Year with Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams at the 40th edition of The New Year's Eve Fireworks Celebration at the historic Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park. The family-friendly event is a free, authentic way to celebrate with locals and travelers.

For a beautiful, unobstructed view of the NYC Skyline coupled with an extravagant fireworks display over the Hudson River, take a ride on Circle Lines New Year's Eve Cruise along the New York Harbor from 9 pm to 1 am. A DJ and midnight toast complete the event that is 21+ to drink, 18+ to enter.

2020 TCS NYC Marathon hopefuls and running enthusiasts are invited to participate in the most festive qualifying race of the year at the NYRR Midnight Run. Registered runners and plus ones will gather at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park for a four-mile race that starts at the stroke of midnight with a beautiful fireworks display.

In The Bronx, families can enjoy a visit to the Bronx zoo, where the Holiday Lights festivities will take place from 5-9 pm, or explore the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, where model trains zip through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks made out of plant parts, including One World Trade Center, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty.

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Plunge is free with prior-registration and kicks off at 1 pm at the Stillwell Avenue boardwalk entrance. Participants are invited to enter the New York Aquarium complimentarily after the plunge to warm up.
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