Melbourne: Art Hotels, Beer Hall Drinks, and Jazz

Melbourne's Jazz Festival (c) PiecesofVictoria.com

Melbourne’s Jazz Festival (c) PiecesofVictoria.com

Most people don’t know that Melbourne is well voted, time and time again, as one of the world’s most livable cities. With it’s impressive calendar of high profile events throughout the year, including the Melbourne International Jazz Festival (May 30 – June 8, 2014), Melbourne International Film Festival (July 31 – August 17, 2014) Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival (November 4, 2014), and the Australian Open Tennis Championships (January 19 – February 1, 2015), it’s also the gateway to regional Victoria, with her deserts, alpine ski resorts, mighty rivers, great lakes, wildlife, and unparalleled spectacle known as the Great Ocean Road. At the same time, art and design groups are flourishing, alongside Melbourne’s natural beauty.

mark_schaller

For example, luxury boutique hotel group, Art Series Hotels is bringing their well-known art inspired concept to regional and urban cities around Australia in a compact & affordable way. First stop, Bendigo – the regional hub of art and culture – and the perfect location for the first studio inspired hotel.

Artist Mark Schaller, today regarded as one of Australia’s strongest mid career artists with his expressionistic, vigorous style, will join the fold. A founding member of the renowned Roar studios in the early 1980’s, his paintings and prints that have been acquired by major institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and National Gallery of Victoria. He’s the real deal.

And… we love the idea of the art studio hotel. No, we actually live for it. A hotel is the best possible location for an experience filled with art and design. To not simply to stay in a location, but to experience the vision and emotion of each designated artist while also on vacation. That is at least one meaning in life. If not the best one.

PS. The second Art Series Studio, Larwill Studio will open in Parkville, Melbourne in December.

Tonka

Tonka

If that’s not reason enough to check out Melbourne, you also have their unique dining and cocktail scene. We hear Adam D’Sylva’s Tonka is a throwback to his Indian and Italian heritage, featuring cocktails including the Darjeeling Fizz, Tonka Lassi and Miguel’s Milk Punch, while Cookie combines Thai food with its mantra of being a Beer Hall, Eating House and Disco to create the perfect environment to dine, flirt, sip and reminisce. The walls are adorned with murals and artwork from Melbourne artists, and the popular ‘kiss wall’ eventuated of its own accord and is now covered with scores of lipstick kisses amassed over the years.

Cookie

Cookie

Sounds pretty good to me.

For more information on things to do, places to go, and sights to see in Melbourne, click the link to for Travel Victoria’s website.

We also liked the list of Melbourne’s hot Jazz clubs on the blog, PiecesofVictoria.com. According to their blog, they said to check out, among others:

Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, a Melbourne institution known for late night jams and dubbed by Lonely Planet as “the world’s best jazz club”. Located in a back alley off Little Lonsdale Street, the club has been around for more than 20 years.

25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

Uptown Jazz Café, hidden up an unassuming set of stairs on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, there’s live music four nights a week and the stage is graced by a renowned list of local and international acts. There’s also a solid Japanese restaurant downstairs if you want to grab a bite prior.

177 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

 

Sydney – An LGBT Mardi Gras Experience

Wave Your Equality Flag!

Wave Your Equality Flag!

In celebration and support of Marriage Equality and Civil Rights FOR ALL – regardless of gender, sexuality, color, creed, (or the religious institutions that attempt to use an omnipotent invisible power as an excuse to limit the rights of wonderful, loving human beings) – here is a brand spankin’ new post on Sydney, an LGBT Mardi Gras Experience by Max Kelerstein, social@Ogilvy’s Digital Strategist Extraordinaire and LGBT Travel Guru.

Kylie Minogue at Mardi Gras Sydney

Kylie Minogue at Mardi Gras Sydney

Ever thought about escaping winter’s bitter cold for some hot summer fun? If you answered with a resounding ‘yes’, like me, then you must consider going to Sydney’s Mardi Gras. Did I mention it’s all gay? I just came back from experiencing the gayest Mardi Gras celebration on earth and it all happens Down Under. This year, celebrated Australian artist and gay icon Kylie Minogue was the guest of honor – and although I’m not a huge fan – you can imagine how crazy Australians reacted at seeing her in the parade and ensuing parties. Previous years’ guests have included Rupert Everett, Margaret Cho, Adam Lambert, and Lily Tomlin, among others.

Just chillin in Sydney

Just chillin in Sydney

The celebrations last for about 2 weeks with a whole range of events including a film festival, concerts, cultural events, and must-see parties.  One of these was the Sydney Harbour Party, a 6-7 hour event on a beautiful venue that overlooks that stunning Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Then there’s the parade, similar to what a NY Pride parade would be. People from all over the world come to Sydney for this celebration, generating over A$30 million for the state’s economy. Not too shabby.

Besides the official Mardi Gras activities, the variety of gay bars and clubs around Oxford Street provided plenty of nightly entertainment. Midnight Shift, my favorite of the gay clubs there, had one of the best drag shows I have seen, featuring choreographed performances by three glamorous queens and two beautiful back up dancers. The beaches are also a must go and South Bondi Beach is the place to be seen, though for a more local crowd (and HOT surfers), follow the rocky path to Tamarama beach. Whether you get a tan at the beaches or you party the night away at one of the many parties and clubs, Sydney should be on your top list of places to visit for LGBT travel – just remember you need a visa (that’s very easy to get)… and plenty of sun block!

Max Kelerstein - LGBT Travel Correspondent

Max Kelerstein – LGBT Travel Correspondent

By Max Kelerstein

Twitter: @TheMaxK

If you’re interested in another LGBT travel story, check out my Tel Aviv post.

Bondi’s Sexiest Beach Bar

Sydney's Sexiest Bondi Beach Bar

On the hunt for hot, we came across this sweet spot right on the cusp of Aussie’s fine coast. Since Australia isn’t nearly as fickle as LA, we’re pretty sure it’s still swirling with sexy.

From Shecky’s Nightlife

By Kelly Dobkin

Sydney: Icebergs Dining Room and Bar
One Notts Ave. (@Campbell Parade)
Bondi Beach + 011.61.29365.900

Cliffside ocean views make Icebergs in Sydney one of the most beautiful bars in the world. Have a seat on the outdoor patio right up against the water, or lounge on plush couches inside, where floor-to-ceiling glass windows and candlelight showcase pristine views. You’ll likely be surrounded by gorgeous bronzed mates who’ve just stepped in from tony Bondi Beach.

Gorgeous, bronzed mates? Most beautiful bar in the world? Australia?

Bloody fine, indeed.

www.idrb.com/icebergs

Australia’s Latest Spa

Hamilton Island's Latest Spa

How’s this for off-the-radar?

Spa wumurdaylin (woo-mer-day-lin) just opened in August and it’s the newest full-service day spa on Hamilton Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The name ‘wumurdaylin’ means dragonfly, a symbol of renewal, freedom, and beauty. With 11 treatment rooms and 3 couples rooms ideal for honeymooners, guests can step off the beach and into a sensory cocoon haven with décor inspired by the surrounding Whitsunday Islands.

The menu includes body cocoon wraps, exfoliations, facials, massages, manis/pedis, and alternative therapies such as naturopath consultations and Reiki treatments.  What makes the spa offerings different is that they incorporate indigenous products that are unique to the Great Barrier Reef and infuse Ancient Aboriginal techniques. This is why we had to share. We’re all about indigenous treatments.

Signature treatments include:

· LI’TYA Susu Dew ‘meaning ‘sea spray’ is a rhythmic body massage, inspired by traditional Australian Aboriginal techniques, which balances and re-aligns energy flow ($140 AUD/hr)

· For Him and Her – in couples treatment rooms, pure spa bliss is guaranteed with a full body massage, oriental head and scalp massage, de-stress foot exfoliation, Moroccan rose and guava hand hydration treatment and a petite spa facial ($510 AUD per couple/2 hrs)

· Mother of Pearl Body Polish – a gentle full body exfoliation treatment that’s rich in marine and plant collagens, crushed mother of pearl, walnut and wattle seed to smooth and refresh tired skin ($160 AUD/hr)

· Mothers-to-be: a nourishing maternal blessing organic honey and cocoa body wrap ($220 AUD/1.5 hours) or a soothing full body pregnancy massage ($120 AUD/hr)

Spa wumurdaylin also uses luxury Australian spa products from Waterlily and LI’TYA as they provide a unique indigenous experience while capturing the beauty of the Whitsunday Islands.   Waterlily delivers authentic aromatherapy spa rituals harnessing the rejuvenating properties of essential oils and all Waterlily products are infused with cold pressed plant oils, anti-aging vitamins, fresh flowers, fruits and herbal concentrates to create a sensory journey for the body, mind and soul. LI’TYA, meaning ‘of the earth’, is an organic premium product range that contains pure botanicals, organic Australia native plants, pure essential oils and natural fragrances with a tread light philosophy.

We would now like to know… when’s the last time you visited the Hamilton island?

www.hamiltonisland.com.au

Winter Vacationing… in Summer

The Park Hyatt Melbourne, Australia

Crowded beaches… Sun-burnt skin… Pre-mature aging… Let’s get real. You’re probably not 18 years old and able to bake in the sun without getting a few new lines anymore. Are you? It’s okay, we’re not either, but we say, ditch the hand-held fan and take a detour from the average getaway this summer with an unexpected vacation in another hemisphere.

Why not bundle up in the southern hemisphere and experience Australia and Argentina’s winter season? Discover the cool misty air in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains or take in the snow-capped peaks of India. At least you can come back looking refreshed and fresh. Tans are so 1990. And sun spots are so 90.

What: Park Hyatt Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Why: Park Hyatt Melbourne welcomes guests with a night of indulgence, called “Winter Warmer”. Enjoy decadent dessert treats, glasses of Moscato, a full buffet, breakfast for two in radii restaurant, and valet parking with complimentary access to the Park Club Health & Day Spa.

Itinerary: The special “winter” Chef’s table menu lets guests taste their way through six seasonal courses, with an optional wine pairing.  Rates start at $518 USD. Six course meal costs $175 USD. Include wine pairing for an additional $120 USD.

Ideal for: Globetrotters missing the coziness of chilly winter nights.

What: Park Hyatt Mendoza, Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina Wine Country

Why: With views of the snow covered Andes and a spa that pampers visitors with local wine-inspired treatments, Park Hyatt Mendoza (located in one of South America’s most famous wine regions) is the perfect place to escape the summer crowds.

Itinerary: Indulge in a “Mascara Corporal de Uvas” (Grape Body Masque) that combines mud from a local mountain chain withessential oils and fresh crumbled grapes or enjoy the “Brillo Vino de Mendoza” (Mendoza’s Wine Body Glow) is a body treatmentapplied from the neck to the toes with Thai massage techniques, providing deep hydration and infusing the skin with antioxidants through the combination of crushed grape skin and seeds. Rates start at $177 USD per night.

Ideal for: Relaxation junkies and oenophiles.

Jamaica Strawberry Hill

What: Strawberry Hill, Irish Town, Jamaica

Why: On an island known for its sandy beaches visitors will discover another side of Jamaica with a refreshing escape to Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. Guests who book four nights at the hotel, enjoy the fifth night free, with rates starting at $195 per night now through December 15.

Itinerary: The adventuresome can literally take a hike (or mountain bike excursion) on one of the many surrounding trails or tour the island’s premier coffee estate. Those seeking to refresh body and mind can take a dip in the negative- edge freshwater pool, channel their inner chakra at the yoga pavilion, or enjoy a holistic treatment at the full-service spa. And of course every guest can just take it easy on the private terrace of their own Georgian-style cottage, of which Strawberry Hill has 12.

Ideal for: Travelers looking to beat the heat but still get a taste of the tropical.

Prayer Flags at Stok Village, India

What: Shakti Village Experiences, Northern India

Why: India in the summer? Late spring through early fall is THE season for places like the Ladakh region of Jammu-Kashmir in the stunning Indian Himalayas.  Shakti Village Experiences can get you there, offering private, guided walking tours throughout villages in the India’s North – such as the Shakti Ladakh tour, which takes guests through the natural wonders of the region known as ‘Little Tibet.’

Itinerary: As guests of a Shakti walking tour, you and your private group will be accompanied by dedicated local porters and guides as you go on ‘soft adventure’-style walks between the villages during the day, and at night, stay in traditional village homes which have been gently spruced to provide proper comfort without compromising authenticity.

Ideal For: Culture worshippers seeking the road less traveled, but with a sherpa for their luggage.

Tasmania’s Latest Little Gem

Tasmania's Hazard Mountains

When we saw the latest images from Australia’s newest luxury hotel, Saffire, located on the breathtaking East Coast of Tasmania near Freycinet, we dropped our jaws (and our laptops).

The news came from one of the top hospitality PR firms in New York City just to let our luxury loving readers know… Saffire is open for business (and they mean business!)

Considered an iconic development for the Australian tourism industry, Saffire is – in both concept and design – like no other hotel in the country.  Capturing the essence of the unique region to connect with the exotic environment, it’s the “culmination of years of market research and careful planning,” says Greg Farrell, Pure Tasmania Managing Director.  And, judging by the looks of it, they’ve done a stellar job. Ultra-modern design, expansive windows, beautiful woods, and plenty of natural light, Saffire is delivering a new world-class Tasmanian experience to showcase the best of their sexy island state.

Saffire Suite - Tasmania's Latest Luxury Digs

Set apart by its approach to individually tailored experiences and service; not constrained by traditional five-star ratings and standards, but instead, creating a new direction for holidays and accommodations in Australia, the luxe property features 20 suites, each offering sweeping views of Great Oyster Bay and the Hazards Mountains (hint, hint: with complete privacy from the neighboring suites). Tasmania’s freshest produce and finest wines and beers will be available in their Palate restaurant and The Lounge bar, while lucky guests can pamper themselves in their premium spa or work up a sweat in the gym.

We hear that their Exclusive Signature Experiences have been “developed accessing little-known areas of the Freycinet Peninsula with a range of other activities tailored to suit guests’ desires.”

Did someone say… desires?

Well, we say, “Tres chic.”

www.saffire-freycinet.com.au

Southern Australia: Food, Film… and Wine

Candace Poole, resident Managing Editor, here to share a long overdue film and travel tip from the Award Season…

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s been a wild month.  While the Golden Globes and Oscars were taking over Los Angeles,  I happened to catch a G’Day LA film event that exposed me to an excellent film and some stunning countryside. It makes me love my job all the more when things fall into place so seamlessly and I have juice to share.

The event of the season (since I’m a lover of film and wine, of course) was the screening of Beautiful Kate, the brilliant directorial debut of Rachel Ward, about an Australian family who comes together for their dying father only to rediscover the painful secrets of a 20 year -old tragedy. Since I don’t want to give away the family secrets, I will say, this film was a deftly told art house film that touches the soul. Rachel Griffiths is superb as Sally, while Sophie Lowe as Kate shines with her fresh, haunting good looks.  A character piece that reminds me what it’s like to see good, quality cinema in Los Angeles.  It’s a rarity, so catch it while you can.

The screening, hosted by the South Australia Tourism Board, couldn’t have been more appropriate. Australia is as a diverse a landscape as one could imagine, with the environment reflecting the challenging and multi-faced aspects of the characters in the film.  From the extraordinary Flinders Ranges which is a magnificent backdrop for the Yura Muda (Aboriginal Dreaming) to the beautiful vineyards of the South Australia coast, there is enough dazzling natural beauty to fulfill any traveler’s dreams.  And that is only a small region of this awesome continent.

There to take note of what Australia has to offer the traveller,  the news is… ABUNDANCE.  After the film concluded, I headed to the party zone to partake in the delights of Kensington Caterers.  There wasn’t a bad note in the entire service. Then, the bar.  Those Aussies sure were as warm and welcoming as you’d imagine. The wonderful wines provided by Shingleback were a perfect match so I began with a 2007 Shingleback McLaren Vale Chardonnay to compliment the Mongolian shrimp lollipops  along with cleverly presented veggies and noodles in take out boxes with chop sticks that were perfectly rendered.  Next up, the lamb which was heavenly served with a Shingleback Shiraz. Oh, for a bigger handbag!  Who knew? Peppery excellence on the palate.

The superstar of the evening was the astonishingly beautiful Rachel Ward, whose eyes did not dart around the room once while she spoke to me.

I was able to meet the owners of the Australian winery Shingleback, John and Kate Davey and they could not have been more friendly and forthcoming with the excitement they have for not only their wines, but for the amazing lives they share with a joy that seems to go along with their profession.  Is it the air? Apparently so. The winery is located about 45 minutes south of Adelaide.  From Sellicks Hill Range then east to Clarendon, north just beyond Reynella and west to the Gulf, is the McLaren Vale region. Go there, NOW.

I had so much to think about when I returned home after such a stimulating evening. Not only the film and its profound layers that must be addressed, but how soon can I schedule a JAUNT to the Outback and Shingleback.

www.shingleback.com.au