Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Dennis Waterman lost old dogs in New Tricks

Dennis Waterman, far right, has wanted to leave since the departure of his co-stars. Photo: SuppliedDennis Waterman has been playing semi-retired cop Gerry Standing in New Tricks for 12 years, but now it can be revealed that he’s been trying to get out since 2012.
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That was since other founding cast members Amanda Redman, Alun Armstrong and James Bolam​ left the show.

Waterman will finally get his wish in episode two of the series that starts this week on ABC.

“What astounded me was how total strangers would come up to me and say how obvious it was that we loved working together,” Waterman told Britain’s Radio Times. “You think the audience shouldn’t be able to see that deeply into us. And they were right – we were all having a great time together.

“This is no slight on the new cast, but everything did change really dramatically and suddenly when Amanda and Alun left.

“I’d already signed up for the next season. I did ask Amanda if I’d look sad carrying on after everybody else had quit and she said, ‘Don’t be daft’.

“And then my wife started buying another bleeding house and I had no option. But it wasn’t the same. Great TV shows are like rock’n’roll bands – you mess with the line-up at your peril.”

Waterman agreed to film the first two episodes of season 12 only when the producers promised they would be written by his favourite writer, Julian Simpson.

Simpson publicly protested in 2012 when the original cast claimed they improvised much of their dialogue, so we’ll find out if Simpson has forgiven Waterman from the way he sends him out of the series, in what Radio Times describes as “a finale that’s pure prime-time spectacle”.

New Tricks starts on Saturday, October 17, at 7.30pm on ABC.’God’ takes a step down

When you’ve been God, it’s a bit of a step down to become merely the chief justice of the United States. But Morgan Freeman was happy to lower his status for the sake of making Tea Leoni​ president.

In this week’s episode of Madam Secretary, Leoni’s character, Secretary of State Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, becomes acting president when Air Force One, carrying the president, goes missing (apparently the vice-president and the president of the senate and the Speaker of the House are unavailable). Freeman appears briefly to swear her in.

Freeman is Hollywood’s go-to guy whenever a movie or TV series needs a character with credibility and charisma. He won an Oscar for Million Dollar Baby and he’s worked his way up from president in Deep Impact to God in Bruce Almighty (until replaced by Jim Carrey).

He also happens to be an executive producer on Madam Secretary, so he was around when the writers needed a chief justice. Freeman says: “The casting director said, ‘OK, we’ll get Morgan to audition. Maybe we can make that happen.’ So, I actually auditioned”. He was judged competent enough for the role.

Tea Leoni found him surprisingly frivolous to work with.

“Everybody behaves better when Morgan is there. He’s really fun. That would probably be surprising to others, because when we think of Morgan, we think more of the president or God, but he’s very fun. He’s charmingly playful.”

Later this season, the former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, will appear as herself.

Madam Secretary resumes on Wednesday, October 14, at 8.30pm on Channel Ten. Critics Snipe at an easy target

Channel Seven’s new crime show, The Player, has attracted the best treasure trove of bad reviews since Channel Nine’s recent disaster Stalker (now cancelled).

The Player stars former action hero Wesley Snipes, who is hoping to earn enough to cover his bills for unpaid taxes from the US government. Most US critics are predicting the show won’t last long enough for that. Here’s a sampling of the best of the worst reactions.

The Hollywood Reporter: “The Player seems like a very bad action-movie-dream set in Vegas where shooting stuff, blowing stuff up, driving cars fast and also fighting very well is more important than plot or believability … basically absurd, with a dollop of stupid on top and a whole bunch of empty tossed in for filler.”

The New York Times: “Plenty of TV shows get by, and even succeed, with equally preposterous plots, but not with a cast full of personality-free characters. Fans of the tax-evading Mr Snipes, if there still are any, will be disappointed that his character is limited to wearing finely tailored suits and delivering omniscient-sounding lines in a blank voice.”

Variety: “It’s all just a glossy excuse for a lot of high-speed chases and fights, informed by the seemingly futile hope that the program’s tone and look will appeal to The Blacklist audience, which merely suggests some confusion as to why people responded well to that show. Even without the absolutely tortured nature of the premise here, the characters are stiff to the point of being laughable.”

The Huffington Post: “I might have tried harder to get past the bad taste that situation left in my mouth had the rest of the show not been fairly paint-by-numbers and generic, but as escapist hours go, there’s not a lot of meat on the bone here.”

The Player starts on Wednesday, October 7, at 9.30pm on Channel Seven.

For more, go to smh上海龙凤论坛m.au/entertainment/blog/the-tribal-mind.

Rioting on Phuket after pair killed in motorcycle crash

A vehicle burns outside Thalang police station in Phuket, Thailand. Photo: Phuketwan Security forces take to the streets of Phuket in a bid to restore calm after the rioting. Photo: Phuketwan
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A youth argues with security forces personnel after the unrest in Phuket. Photo: Phuketwan

Bangkok: First a choking haze from distant forest fires ruined holidays and forced flight cancellations on the Thai resort island of Phuket.

Then video showing five security guards viciously kicking and elbowing two n tourists outside a nightclub on the island went viral on the internet.

Now, the island’s serenity has been shattered further as an angry mob surrounded a police station and set alight nine cars in protests at the deaths of two locals.

Hundreds of army reinforcements arrived from neighbouring provinces as a mob threatened to set the Thalang police station in central Phuket alight, with police cowering inside on Saturday and early Sunday.

Photographs from inside the police building showed police sheltering in an upper floor. Some windows were smashed.

Up to 500 people outside the building dispersed early on Sunday after a senior military officer promised that their grievances would be heard at a provincial hall meeting.

The online news site Phuketwan reported that a youth aged 17 and a man aged 22 died on Saturday when the motorcycle they were riding crashed.

Police said the pair rode off after being stopped by police on suspicion of possessing illegal drugs.

Gatherings of Thais and public protests have been rare in Thailand since the army toppled a democratically-elected government last year, after months of anti-government street demonstrations.

The ruling junta has moved swiftly to crush dissent, including taking away hundreds of people to military camps for so-called “re-education”.

The haze that has shrouded parts of southern Thailand from forest fires in Indonesia cleared at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the five security guards seen in video assaulting the Mildura men on an end-of-season football trip will escape punishment because the victims left Thailand without making statements to police.

Up to 25,000 ns holiday on Phuket each month.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 to visit Melbourne and Sydney in 2017

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is doing a four-day round-trip cruise from Melbourne which makes an inaugural call at Kangaroo Islandincluding an inaugural call at Kangaroo Island.
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Bergen in Norway with Creative Cruising.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is doing a four-day round-trip cruise from Melbourne which makes an inaugural call at Kangaroo Islandincluding an inaugural call at Kangaroo Island.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is doing a four-day round-trip cruise from Melbourne which makes an inaugural call at Kangaroo Islandincluding an inaugural call at Kangaroo Island.

Oceanwide Expedition’s ship MV Ortelius in Antarctica.

Sea Princess in New Zealand.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is doing a four-day round-trip cruise from Melbourne which makes an inaugural call at Kangaroo Islandincluding an inaugural call at Kangaroo Island.

ITALIAN PASSIONS

Uniworld is one of very few river-cruise companies that sails Italy’s Po River, and its two itineraries on River Countess, the 10-day Gems of Northern Italy and 15-day Gems of Northern Italy have been extended for 2016. Highlights of the journey might include a Milan city tour, a visit to Verona, wine tasting in Valpolicella​ and culinary experiences such as a Chioggia​ market visit with a do-it-yourself mussel-harvesting experience. The cruise also includes a full-day excursion to Bologna, with a pasta-making demonstration and rare after-hours access to St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

Phone 1300 780 231. See uniworldcruises上海龙凤论坛m.au. ANTARCTIC SKIING

Here’s one for active travellers who think cruising is a sedate affair: ski mountaineering in Antarctica. Oceanwide Expeditions is offering passengers a chance to experience this strenuous and technical activity, which sees mountaineers climb snow-covered peaks while roped in small groups, before skiing back down again. Certified mountain guides supervise the activity. Good physical condition and some mountaineering experience is required; ropes and carabiners, harnesses and ice axes are provided. Ski mountaineering is available on two February 2016 sailings on MV Ortelius​ from Ushuaia​ to the Antarctic Peninsula.

See oceanwide-expeditions上海龙凤论坛m. ROYAL VISIT

Cunard has announced special Queen Mary 2 voyages from Sydney and Melbourne in 2017 that let travellers experience the famous ocean liner on short itineraries. A four-day round-trip cruise from Melbourne in February 2017 makes an inaugural call at Kangaroo Island, while a five-night round-trip cruise from Sydney, also in February 2017, heads to Tasmania and features an inaugural calls to Port Arthur and Hobart. The two cruises are part of a 118-night world voyage that also includes a maiden call to Busselton​ in Western .

Phone 13 24 41. See cunard上海龙凤论坛m. AUSTRALIA TO ARCTIC

Sailing from all the way to the Arctic Circle might sound improbable, but that’s just what Princess Cruises is offering on an itinerary that departs Sydney or Fremantle in May 2017. The history-making itinerary on Sea Princess will take passengers to 39 ports in 26 countries as part of an epic 104-night circumnavigation of the globe. Among them are four Nordic ports of call (Gravdal, Tromso, Honningsvag and Akureyri) in the Arctic Circle. The ship then continues to North and South America and crosses the Pacific back to .

Phone 13 24 88. See princess上海龙凤论坛mBALTIC-BOUND

Creative Cruising is offering a Baltic Capitals & Norwegian Fjords cruise-tour package, departing on 30 April 2016. The one-of-a-kind round trip from Copenhagen includes airfares, one night pre-cruise and two nights post-cruise accommodation at the Admiral Hotel in Copenhagen, and a 16-night cruise on Norwegian Star. The itinerary visits the grand capitals of Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland and Sweden, as well as St Petersburg and the fjords of Norway. Availability is limited, so hop to it by the end of the month to get the best deal.

Phone 1300 362 599.​ See creativecruising上海龙凤论坛m.au

Dannii Minogue’s ex Kris Smith lands plum international TV presenter role

Brendan Moar (left) and Kris Smith (second from right) at the launch of the Insight channel at the Mipcom market in Cannes. Photo: Michael IdatoNew The X-Files makes a dazzling debutThe five hottest scripted dramas at Mipcom​
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With a crowd of almost 14,000 pounding the pavement at the annual television market Mipcom, its tough to stand out. But it seemed this week two Aussie blokes stood head and shoulders above the rest.

n television hosts Brendan Moar and Kris Smith attended the global program sales market in Cannes, France, to spruik a new European-headquartered ultra high-definition TV channel which has hired the pair as its leading presenters.

The channel, named Insight, is broadcast in so-called “4K” ultra high-definition (UHD). It is launching with 200 hours of UHD programming which Moar, Smith and a third presenter, Thom Hunt, will front.

“TV is undergoing enormous change and everybody is always talking about that but this channel is stepping up to that challenge, as immersive, interactive and complete a TV experience as possible,” Moar told Fairfax Media in Cannes.

“It feels like TV of the next generation,” he said.

The Insight channel is delivered in both a linear (scheduled) and non-linear (on-demand) format throughout Europe and Asia via a number of services, including SES Astra, Tricolour and ITV Network.

The planned roll-out of the channel did not initially , but because Moar and Smith both have high media profiles here, it will be launched in as a web-based streaming channel.

Insight’s programming includes Spartan X, which puts 12 contestants through Spartan-style endurance competitions, On The Run, in which a celebrity is pursued by two “hunters” through a city, and Dracula, a horror-themed series in which contestants must solved riddles in order to escape a locked room deep inside a Romanian castle.

The program slate comes from some of Europe’s best production companies, including Strix and Zodiak Media.

Moar and Smith were recruited for the channel earlier this year.

“Shows were pitched, but not in too much detail,” Smith told Fairfax Media. “There was talk about where these shows would be filmed, there was talk of the channel, which hadn’t even launched yet. It was so left of field it was intriguing.”

Moar said his experience was very similar.

“There’s always secrecy around something like this, and no one wants to give anything away,” he said. “It was beautifully made info-tainment, adventure-based, science-based and sports-based, but really wanting to get inside the subject.”

The pair then flew to Amsterdam for meetings with the network’s executives. Neither knew of the other’s involvement until they ran into each other in an airport lounge as both were departing.

“Discovering Kris was part of this was awesome,” Moar said. “Suddenly I felt like I had a partner in crime. And both of us got it, we worked out what it was and I think since then it’s been a fun ride. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

The pair arrived in Cannes last weekend, ahead of the devastating storms which hit the region.

On their first night in Cannes they went to watch the World Cup rugby in a local pub but when the storm escalated the pub was closed and they were forced to return to their hotel, wading through rising floodwaters.

“It didn’t to the naked eye seem to bad, but unfortunately the next day the bad news broke that people had lost their lives,” Smith said. Moar added: “Where we were we had absolutely no sense of what was happening anywhere else, nor could we.”

The four-day Mipcom market wraps having pushed almost 14,000 industry executives past content from approximately 2000 companies representing 100 countries.

“It’s a big circus of TV people, buying and selling,” Moar said of the organised chaos. “You get the sense the whole world of television is here and just how vast it is. It’s a bit of a perspective moment in terms of where you sit in the world of TV. It’s very eye-opening.”

Among Mipcom’s high-profile guests were the newly anointed Top Gear host Chris Evans, Heroes Reborn creator Tim Kring, British screenwriter Andrew Davies and The X-Files creator/producer Chris Carter.

One of the market’s major events was the premiere of the redux of The X-Files, which drew huge crowds and generated enormous buzz.

Spectrum

Traveller letters: Qantas, there’s a huge gap between your air and ground service

Sounds of silence dinner at Uluru. Traveller letters, logo
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Traveller letters, logo

Traveller letters, logo

LA LA LAND

In a case of “don’t put your daughter on the [Qantas plane], Mrs Worthington”, my daughter recently ended up without a flight home from LA.  After a traumatic week of expensive telephone calls, long phone queues and constant broken promises of return calls, she swallowed her pride and independence and asked me to call Qantas for her.

Despite the airline’s professed support of women, it was amazing to see what a male voice could achieve. She got her flight back but the matter unfortunately did not end there, with Qantas changing her flight on the day she was to fly home and not telling her.

By chance she discovered the change before she arrived at Los Angeles International Airport.

Then there was baggage trauma, as she had relied on further misinformation from Qantas. Finally, she relieved it all in a long letter to Qantas because “Customer Care”  repeatedly told me they would “look after her”. All they offered was a bundle of frequent flyer points of little use to someone who, by then, “hated” Qantas.

Whilst it might offer good service in the air, Qantas’s service at ground level leaves a great deal to be desired.

Graham Devries, Melbourne, VICLETTER OF THE WEEK

The Sounds of Silence dinner was a highlight of a trip to Uluru several years ago, so it was good to see it included in the “Six of the Best” experiences at Uluru (Traveller, September 25). But one word of warning. On the night we attended, we saw people getting on the bus in their “going out to dinner” clothes.  This is not a good idea!

As the night goes on, because the dinner is held in the sand hills, the temperature drops rapidly and it becomes very, very cold. By the end of the evening, it was so cold that the drinking water in the glasses had frozen. The organisers provide some warmer gear and some fires, but diners should make sure they are prepared for the temperatures.

To fully enjoy the experience of the silence, the desert, the food and the amazing stars, just ensure you have enough clothes on and don’t forget your feet.

Joyce Currie, Wendouree, VICCARD SHARPS

We recently pre-booked a week-long stay in a Harbour View room at the Holiday Inn Potts Point in Sydney. A credit card imprint of my Visa card was taken at arrival with the assurance that the pre-authorisation amount of $50 would be released at the completion of the stay. On departure, I decided to pay $1200 for the stay on my MasterCard, rather than with the originally imprinted Visa card – a change that I carefully explained to hotel staff.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had been “automatically charged” a nightly authorisation tariff on my Visa card as well, which has yet to be released several weeks later. In effect, I paid double the hotel bill, once at departure using my MasterCard and unbeknownst to me and without my permission, with my Visa card.

Despite my club membership of the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), the duty manager told me to get in touch with ANZ Bank to try to get the Visa card double charges released.

This simply is not good enough. Does IHG take such a negative view of human character that they automatically charge your credit card a nightly tariff on the presumption that you will leave their hotel without paying?

Joseph Ting, Carina, QLDSCRAPES OF WRATH

I agree completely with John Garratt (Letters, September 25),  as I too have had problems with Europcar​ in the UK. Firstly I had to wait over two hours at Manchester Airport to collect an automatic car that had been pre-booked and paid for. OK, that happens.

Then I was informed by the staff that they had an automatic car available but, because it was of a higher standard than I had booked, I would have to pay  $130 a day, over and above what had already been paid, to rent it. Dreadful customer service.

On returning the car to Glasgow I was charged  $116 for a one-centimetre scrape on the wing mirror and (this bit added insult to injury) a further $58 administration fee.

Ewan McLean, Avalon, NSWSWISS BLISS

I want to thank travel writer Diane Armstrong for the recommendation of Kandersteg, Switzerland, published in Traveller earlier this year. It was, hands down, the most beautiful scenery I’ve come across in my many years of travel, and I would never have known about the town otherwise.

I, too, stayed at the delightful Hotel Bernerhof, and hiked a magnificent Oeschinensee trail. Perhaps I went a bit far by ordering the exact same sausages, rosti and apple Kuchen as Diane did at Lohner’s restaurant Restaurant Lohner, but that also turned out to be a winning idea.

Many thanks for inspiring a great adventure.

Hannah Fagan, Toorak, VicUNDER REVIEW

My partner and I recently completed a five-week trip Europe and after completing each sector of our journey I  posted a review of each establishment and city we visited.

Not having ever been one to post such reviews, I was astounded upon our return to discover some 800-plus views of the assorted posts we had made. It prompted me to think that there are other travellers who will appreciate and make value judgments before booking hotels or sightseeing adventures from the assorted reviews on TripAdvisor and other booking sites.

If we were able to assist at least one other person or group make an informed decision about their travel plans from our own experiences then we were happy to do so.

Tony White, Bexley  NSW

WE WELCOME YOUR TRAVEL-RELATED OPINIONS AND EXPERIENCES

The writer of the letter judged the best of the week will receive a Lonely Planet prize pack valued at almost $90, it includes The World’s Best Brunches, The World’s Best Spicy Food and The World’s Best Street Food. See www.lonelyplanet上海龙凤论坛m.

Letters may be edited for space, legal or other reasons. Preference will be given to letters of 50-100 words or less.

Email us at [email protected]上海龙凤论坛m.au and, importantly, include your name, address and phone number.

To read more Traveller Letters, click here.

Kids’ holiday reviews: Kidzcationz

Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created the travel website Kidzcationz, where children give their ratings of holiday destinations and experiences.
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Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created the travel website Kidzcationz, where children give their ratings of holiday destinations and experiences.

Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created the travel website Kidzcationz, where children give their ratings of holiday destinations and experiences.

Is there anything more annoying than being outsmarted by a child?

Last week, I discovered a 12-year-old had developed a TripAdvisor for kids.

Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created Kidzcationz after a holiday to the States.

“Mum was filling out a TripAdvisor review and she liked a hotel where we had stayed,” she says. “The fold-out bed I had was uncomfortable and the kids’ meals were the same old dried-out nuggets and pasta. To me, it was like the parents mattered, but the kids didn’t.”

So, I’ve taken a leaf from Bella’s book for this week’s column.

These are the top trips from 393 nine- to 12-year-olds on the Kids Board at app.boundround上海龙凤论坛m.

SKIING IN NEW ZEALAND

Seeing the white stuff is a thrill, especially for kids more accustomed to beaches. Some of the best slopes in the world are only a short flight away, including Cardrona and Coronet Peak. “The runs are amazing, and so challenging, but there are also some great options if you’re not as experienced. Plus, you get to feel like you’re in Middle Earth!” says  Bound Round junior reporter, Isaac.

SNORKELLING IN FIJI

With warm locals, affordable resorts, and endless water sports, Fiji is the most popular international destination for n families. Kids Board member Daniel says, “With so many awesome experiences, you’ll never be bored. My ‘must dos’ are snorkelling with the manta rays, visiting the mud baths and going on the Sigatoka Off Road Cave Safari.”

CULTURE IN THE TIWI ISLANDS

While Uluru is often the first choice for families seeking an Indigenous experience, the Kids Board recommends the Tiwi Islands, off Darwin. Lucy from Bound Round says: “There’s nothing more n than visiting the Tiwi people on the Tiwi Islands. Your eyes get opened to so much of their culture, that we should all be so proud of.”

STAY SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT

Kids love staying in lighthouses, tree houses, or zoos. “There’s something really cool about going to sleep listening to sounds you don’t normally hear at home. A lighthouse off the coast of Victoria is one of my favourite holidays of all time, hearing the waves crashing beside us at bedtime,” junior journalist Paris says.

GO WILD IN TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND

No matter how old they are, kids are intrigued by animals. Bound Rounder Mia says, “We’ve done a heap of holidays where we’ve come face to face with animals, but I’d have to say feeding a croc is high on my list of highlights. Oh, and diving in the Reef with all that amazing coral and fish of every colour!”

As for our kids, well, 10-year-old Taj reckons you can’t beat Club Med Kani in the Maldives because of, “all the awesome activities and beautiful beaches”, while nine-year-old Grace loves New Caledonia where, “you can practise speaking French, and eat delicious cheese”.

You might just have a budding travel entrepreneur in your family.

Maybe there are benefits to being outsmarted by kids…?

800 Words attracts 1 million viewers

800 Words is proving popular. Photo: suppliedDrama is alive and well on n commercial television. Well, one drama, at least. Because Seven has stuck to its promise of ending The X Factor before 9pm, more than a million viewers in the mainland capitals are able to watch 800 Words and still get to bed by 10.Other dramas aren’t so healthy – the next most popular is House Husbands, with 715,000 viewers in the mainland capitals. Seven’s much-trumpeted revival Heroes Reborn could only manage 444,000.
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But fantasy of a different sort is thriving on Ten, with The Bachelorette rising to 992,000 – much bigger numbers than achieved by most episodes of The Bachelor. It is now the most popular “reality” show on the box, with The Block averaging about 850,000 on weekdays and Celebrity Apprentice below 600,000.

This year’s AFL grand final was not the most watched AFL event of the century (that happened in 2005, with 3.4 million in the mainland capitals watching the match between the Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles) but it did pull 372,000 in Sydney, suggesting aerial ping pong can make a serious claim to be ‘s national sport.

The NRL grand final was also not a record breaker (the most watched biffo-GF this century was in 2014, with 2.6 million viewers). Despite being an all-Queensland event, the NRL pulled 909,000 viewers in Sydney. But the 409,000 Melbourne people watching what is supposed to be a north-eastern game suggests it also has a strong claim to the title of national sport, especially when we learn that it had 1.3 million viewers on regional stations, compared with 900,000 regional viewers for the AFL.

OzTAM estimates these were the most watched shows in the week ending October 5:

#1 AFL grand final (Seven) 2.64m in the mainland capitals

#2 NRL grand final (Nine) 2.31m

#3 Seven News Saturday (Seven) 1.37m

#4 Nine News Sunday (Nine) 1.26m

#5 800 words (Seven) 1.16m

China’s best resorts and hotels: The 10 best resorts and hotels in China

Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania
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Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania

Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania

The pool at the One & Only Hayman.

Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa.

The Byron at Byron Resort Spa.

Arkaba Station, South .

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

Southern Ocean Lodge on South ‘s Kangaroo Island.

The view from one of the luxury tented rooms at Longitude 131 at Uluru.

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

LUXURY LODGES AND CAMPS

Our early explorers knew that careful planning was required before venturing into the outback. Today’s safari camps may not rival the bizarre opulence achieved by the likes of Burke and Wills, but they do recapture the romance of 19th-century travel. Properties such as Bamurru Plains (Northern Territory), Sal Salis, El Questro, Kimberley Coastal Camp (all Western ) and Ikara (South ) have helped to redefine what “going bush” means in with freshly prepared meals, helicopter transfers and professional guides.

Like their counterparts in Africa, the purpose of these safari camps is to offer total immersion in the landscape without sacrificing too many creature comforts. You may be sleeping under canvas, but the bed is soft and downy, the sheets pure Egyptian cotton and, most of the time, guests have en suite bathrooms. Meanwhile, properties such as Uluru’s Longitude 131 and NSW’s One & Only Wolgan Valley have taken the safari camp concept to another level of luxury with elegant pavilions, formal dining, plunge pools and spa treatments – a far cry from the n camping holiday of yesteryear.

Thanks to the safari camp, remote places such as  Kakadu, the Flinders Ranges and Ningaloo Reef are now accessible to the adventurous traveller. This is sustainable, low-impact travel at its best. Safari camps also provide the perfect base for all kinds of nature-based activities, such as bird watching, hiking, snorkelling and kayaking. Although the concept was imported, the safari camp has been cleverly adapted to n conditions. Rather than simply imitating the East African model has developed its own unique collection of eco-friendly properties; each offering a distinct travel experience.

With their strict environmental protocols, highly motivated staff, tented accommodation, contemporary fare and stunning wilderness locations these safari camps provide a privileged taste of ‘s remote and beautiful places – from the red dirt of Central to the pristine waters of Western ‘s North West Cape.

See bamurruplains上海龙凤论坛m; salsalis上海龙凤论坛m.au; elquestro上海龙凤论坛m.au; kimberleycoastalcamp上海龙凤论坛m.au; ikarasafaricamp上海龙凤论坛m.au; longitude131上海龙凤论坛m.au; wolganvalley.oneandonlyresorts上海龙凤论坛m

Mark ChipperfieldQT HOTELS, NATIONALLY

Launched in 2010, QT Hotels are filling a much-needed gap in the n hotel market. They’re quirky, with high emphasis on design and playfulness, and priced relatively affordably. Little themed touches such as the cockatoo-shaped lamps and retro beach chic at the Gold Coast property plus politician photo-framed mirrors in Canberra give distinct personalities. There are five in this gloriously un-chainlike chain, with three more on the way. See qthotels上海龙凤论坛m.au

David WhitleyONE & ONLY HAYMAN ISLAND, QUEENSLAND

While the beauty of the most northerly island of the Whitsundays group speaks for itself, an $80 million refurbishment and the reopening of the resort as a One & Only last year – the first in the Asia Pacific region – has propelled this property into a new class of tropical sublime; no passport required. The room count has shrunk from 210 to 160 and turnedinto suites with extra living spaces or a bedroom. For further lounging, dive off your suite deck and swim across the gigantic pool to a private cabana and views of the Coral Seathat people travel the globe for. See hayman.oneandonlyresorts上海龙凤论坛m.

Jane ReddyBYRON AT BYRON RESORT, NSW

The Byron at Byron is world class not because it tries to copy famous overseas resorts, but because it is very much part of the n landscape and culture. Sensitively built within  18 hectares of wetland rainforest, it’s full of uniquely n joys, like sharing the boardwalk to your villa with a scrub turkey or a tree frog. Add morning walks through the bush to Tallow Beach; a 25-metre infinity pool; spacious, lodge-style rooms along a living tidal lagoon; relaxed dining; and a special sort of charm from the chilled-but-professional staff, and you couldn’t be anywhere else by Byron Bay. Which is the point, really. See thebyronatbyron上海龙凤论坛m.au

Jill DupleixARKABA STATION, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The remote and staggeringly beautiful Arkaba Station, a vast working sheep station on the edge of Wilpena Pound, takes the quintessential n bushwalk to a whole new level. Overlooked by the craggy Elder Ranges, think thirsty creek beds lined with magnificent river red gums, an historic 1850’s homestead and wildlife at every turn. On a luxury overland safari explore the outback’s rugged landscape by day with highly experienced guides; and by night dine by lantern light and watch for shooting stars from your comfy swag. See arkabawalk上海龙凤论坛m

Sheriden RhodesSAFFIRE FREYCINET 

There’s no hotel on Earth that epitomises what the modern traveller looks for more than Saffire Freycinet. We’re no longer interested in ostentatious veneer or pompous ceremony,  we just want to feel comfortable in a place that allows us to see nature at its finest. Set in Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, you’ll wake each morning to the pink-granite rocks of the surrounding Hazards mountains and the blue water of Coles Bay in a place that feels as relaxed as home. See saffire-freycinet上海龙凤论坛m.au

Craig TansleySOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Superb spas and outstanding food are par for the course at a luxury lodge. What sets Southern Ocean Lodge apart is the way an afternoon spent doing nothing is turned into a memorable experience. Swathe yourself in a cashmere blanket, grab one of the superb South n wines from the help-yourself bar, and curl up in an armchair to spend an afternoon gazing out at the mesmerising sight of the Southern Ocean pounding towards you. Unforgettable. See southernoceanlodge上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Ute JunkerTHALA BEACH NATURE RESERVE, QUEENSLAND 

Combining luxury and impeccable eco-credentials, Thala Beach Nature Reserve has been leading the way in sustainable tourism since opening in 1998.  Close to Port Douglas’s glitzy resorts, and set on a coastal headland covered in rainforest, Thala offers something genuinely different, with nature tours, educational talks and star-gazing included in a stay.  Its 83 luxurious bungalows stand in between trees and tropical vegetation, and the top-quality Ospreys restaurant has the best views of all, over the forest canopy and the coastline.  See thalabeach上海龙凤论坛m.au

Daniel ScottHOTEL HOTEL, CANBERRA

On his election nearly a year ago, Andrew Barr, the n Capital Territory’s chief minister, declared that among of his objectives was a desire to displace Wellington, New Zealand’s self-appointed status as “the coolest little capital in the world”. We’re not sure how the chief minister is progressing with his trans-Tasman scheming but even before he was elected, Canberra’s edgy 68-room Hotel Hotel  and the dynamic NewActon development  in which it is located,  was defiantly cooler than even relations between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Along with the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, Hotel Hotel ranks as the biggest game-changing hotel in an n capital. See hotel-hotel上海龙凤论坛m.au; newacton上海龙凤论坛m.au; visitcanberra上海龙凤论坛m.au; hehenryjones上海龙凤论坛m.

Anthony DennisQUALIA, QUEENSLAND

Qualia on Hamilton Island opened in 2007 amid much talk that it would redefine the luxury resort experience in . That proved to be no small boast after Conde Nast Traveller , the prestigious US travel title, named it the world’s best resort five years later. With its private plunge pools, vast rooms and stunning views, this is an n retreat that will make you feel like a member of Hollywood’s A-list. And with its large, Jurassic Park-style entrance gate, you won’t have to worry about anyone invading your privacy.

Craig PlattART SERIES HOTELS, VICTORIA AND SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Sleeping amongst great art doesn’t happen just in European castles. Art Series Hotels’ seven hotels in Victoria and South each showcase the work of one n artist, which is spread liberally throughout the properties, from shower screens to the lobby. The hotels are embedded in the local neighbourhoods, and with an eco-vibe thanks to electric Smart cars and gracious Lekker step-through bicycles for hire, and cheeky ploys to draw out our own creativity, including children’s paint kits. See artserieshotels上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Belinda JacksonPUMPHOUSE POINT, TASMANIA 

There are pockets of lovely wilderness dotted around the planet, but where else in the world can you sleep, comfortably sheltered from the storms, not only in the middle of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, but bang smack in the middle of the spectacular lake itself? A pair of disused hydro-electric blockhouses have recently been converted to offer luxury accommodation for those who need a break from those leaky tents. From the outside they’re basic concrete blots on the landscape; inside, they’re hip industrial chic, with views to die for. See pumphousepoint上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Richard Tulloch

Arctic cruises and a new Byron Bay resort: the best travel deals in town

Loire Valley.
Shanghai night field

Loire Valley.

Loire Valley.

Loire Valley.

Elements of Byron.

POLES APART

Abercrombie & Kent has just released its program of 2016 – 2017 polar expedition cruises, operated on exclusively chartered ships and is offering great savings.

Save up to $US3000 ($4260) a couple on an Arctic cruise adventure when booked by October 31. For instance, the new 12-day ‘Iceland & Greenland: In the Wake of the Vikings’ trip is priced from $US10,495 a person (was $US11,995); the 15-day ‘Arctic Cruise Adventure – Norway, Greenland & Iceland’ trip is priced from $US13,495 a person (was $US14,995).

As well, save up to $US6000 a couple on Antarctic cruise adventures when booked by March 31, 2016. See abercrombiekent上海龙凤论坛m.au

ROLLING ALONG

UTracks is offering early bird specials and one is on its Bike & Barge Tour of the Picturesque Loire Valley itinerary. Take 10 per cent off the usual price.  The eight-day guided tour involves cycling, touring and wine tasting through the region and relaxing and sleeping in private custom-built canal barges by night. Highlights include the 12th century Chateau D’Apremont, Chateau Pont Chevron, Chateau La Bussiere and lots more. You get all meals, use of bicycles and transfers.

Book by October 31 and pay $1521 a person (add $130 for high season August 27 – September 24, 2016). Call 1300 303 368. See utracks上海龙凤论坛m

ELEMENTAL, MY DEAR

The new resort, Elements of Byron, is now taking bookings and will welcome first guests from February 1. The $100 million property encompasses two kilometres of beach frontage at Belongil Beach, Byron Bay. Every villa has a private terrace, Wi-Fi and iPad, and some have ocean and lake views, fireplaces and private bathing decks with large freestanding bathing tubs.

The property is offering a “First Glimpse” package, that includes accommodation for two people in a Signature One Bedroom Villa, continental breakfast in Graze Restaurant, an Essential Elements gift pack and morning beachside yoga.

The price is from $437 a night and is valid for stays from February 1 till September 15, 2016. Phone (02) 6685 6561. See elementsofbyron上海龙凤论坛m.au

SLEEK SEMINYAK

Spend eight nights at the new five-star The Trans Resort Bali in Seminyak in a package valued at up to $6283 – but pay less than a quarter of that. The plush resort offers easy access to Bali’s best high-end shopping and fine dining and the package includes daily breakfasts, return airport transfers, nightly cocktails at the rooftop bar, a lunch at Mamasan restaurant, a degustation dinner, spa treatments and lots more.

The price is $1599 for two adults (with allowance for up to two kids, under five, staying free). The Luxury Escapes deal is valid for sale till October 16 with validity for travel until December 2016 with minimal blackout periods (travel is available during most of the summer holidays). Phone 1300 889 900. See LuxuryEscapes上海龙凤论坛m

TWO TO TANGO

Book a trip for two to South America with Eclipse Travel and one of the two travellers flies for free. That’s a saving of up to $2500 a couple with the Companions Fly Free packages, which include a range of tailor-made tours to South America such as the 14-day South America Essentials trip. From $5150 a person, the tour takes in some of South America’s most famous destinations including Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro with plenty of great experiences.

Inclusions cover: accommodation, internal air fares, entrance fees, tours with English speaking guides, transfers and some meals. Valid for sale till November 11 for travel March – September, 2016. Phone 1300 575 752. See eclipsetravel上海龙凤论坛m.au

Villa Trapp, Von Trapp family home, Salzburg: The Sound of Music and the site of history

Villa Trapp in Salzburg. Heinrich Himmler’s bunker at Villa Trapp.
Shanghai night field

Hotel Schloss Leopold, Salzburg.

The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. Photo: G?nter Breitegger

The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. Photo: G?nter Breitegger

The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. Photo: G?nter Breitegger

Villa Trapp in Salzburg.

Villa Trapp in Salzburg. str11salzburg Photo: Supplied.

When the Von Trapps, the famous musical family depicted in The Sound of Music, escaped the Nazis, the story of their Austrian home was far from over.

“After they left, Heinrich Himmler moved in here,” our host and building manager Christopher Unterkofler explains.

“He even built an underground bunker.”

Wait. What? Is this secret lair of one of the Nazis’ key leaders still here?

“Yes. Would you like to see it?” Unterkofler says. He seems almost puzzled by our interest.

After all, we’re at Villa Trapp in Salzburg, the former home of one of Austria’s most famous families, whose story was turned into one of the biggest Hollywood musicals of all time. This is normally a place that appeals to music lovers, not World War II buffs.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Sound Of Music and fans are flocking to the Von Trapps’ home town to mark the occasion (300,000 fans do a Sound Of Music tour in the city every year, but those numbers have increased this year).

On October 17, the city will play host to a celebratory gala in the Felsenreitschule theatre (itself the setting for one of the film’s famous scenes), with guests, including cast members, flying in from around the world. But right now, I’m more interested in the fascinating history of what happened to Villa Trapp after the Von Trapps left.

We’re shown to a small brick building in the grounds just behind the manor and take a flight of stairs down into the darkness. Himmler’s bunker – a series of dank concrete rooms – is being used as a storage space. It seems most visitors to Villa Trapp are much more interested in the stars of the musical than war history.

Villa Trapp itself is not the palace depicted in the film but a large, 22-room historic home built in 1863. Georg von Trapp and his children moved there in 1924 following the death of his first wife.

After the war, a religious group, the Catholic Missionaries of the Precious Blood, bought the property from the Von Trapps, who had had their ownership restored after the Nazis were defeated.

While he lived there, Himmler used the home as his summer residence, converting one of the children’s rooms to his office and installing a barracks for SS officers in the grounds.

Although the Nazi leader died in Germany, Unterkofler says the priests that moved in after the war could hear the creaking of the boots of Himmler’s ghost on the floorboards at night. They performed three exorcisms to get rid of his presence, but none was successful. In the end, the “ghost” was finally driven away after a carpenter fixed the boards.

The priests rented out the property in the 1990s and it became a hotel in 2008. Now, guests can stay in rooms that belonged to various members of the Von Trapp family and are labelled as such.

I stay in Martina’s room (many of the children’s names were changed for the film – Martina Von Trapp became Gretl, the youngest of the group).

Given the age and history of the building, it’s not all that surprising to find that the hotel is not quite at the level of a modern luxury stay, but feels more like a B&B. For example, there are no toiletries in the bathrooms, just a soap dispenser, and no tea or coffee in the rooms. It is, in essence, a bedroom, not a hotel room.

This is largely due to the nature of the property itself – it retains much of its original, old-fashioned charms and will mostly appeal to avid fans of the film. For those not wanting to stay at the hotel, guided tours are also available (see Trip Notes below).

Villa Trapp, home to the real Von Trapp family, is not as grand or luxurious as the property used for the film, the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron – an enormous 300-year-old palace that became the home of theatre director Max Reinhardt.

This hotel offers 12 luxurious suites in the main building and next door the Meierhof, the property’s former administration building, has been fully renovated and modernised. It reopened to the public last year.

While The Sound of Music seems to be present in every corner of the city, the locals of Salzburg, we’re told, have little interest in the film. In fact, few have seen it. Although it has been a staple of television in the English-speaking world (and ns are the second-biggest market for Sound of Music tours here), it had little exposure in the country where it was set.

And having had a taste of the real story behind the film, it’s easier to understand why Austrians might not be that interested in the fictionalised version of the story. When put in the context of the true wartime history of the family and the aftermath, Himmler’s ghost included, it’s hard for Hollywood to compete with reality. TRIP NOTESMore information

salzburg.info/en

austria.info/auGETTING THERE

Austrian Airlines flies to Vienna from Bangkok with codeshare connections to n cities via Thai Airways; see austrian上海龙凤论坛m. From Vienna, the train to Salzburg takes about 2½ hours; see oebb.at/en. STAYING THERE

The Villa Trapp has double rooms from $120 a night; see villa-trapp上海龙凤论坛m. The grand Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron has double rooms from $270 a night; see schloss-leopoldskron上海龙凤论坛m/en.

The writer was a guest of the Austrian Tourist Board.FIVE MORE SALZBURG SOUND OF MUSIC SITESMIRABELL GARDENS

A beautifully manicured park where Maria and the children sing Do-Re-Mi. ZWERGLGARTEN

Adjacent to the Mirabell Gardens is the “Dwarf Gnome Garden”, home to a series of somewhat grotesque gnome statues, supposedly based on real dwarfs that served in the court of the city’s archbishop in the 17th Century. The garden also features in Do-Re-Mi.GAZEBO AT HELLBRUNN PALACE

The gazebo for the Sixteen Going on Seventeen scene of the the film has been moved numerous times but has been at Hellbrunn since 1997. It’s now locked after too many visitors injured themselves trying to leap from seat to seat as Liesl does in the film. ST PETER’S CEMETERY

Although not actually seen in the film, the scenes in which the family hide from the Nazis were on a Hollywood set that is based on this cemetery near the centre of town. ST MICHAEL’S CHURCH

Outside Salzburg in the gorgeous village of Mondsee is the church where the wedding of Maria and Georg was filmed.