Six of Melbourne’s Coolest Bars

Melbourne's Coolest Bars

Hihou Bar. Photo by Paul Philipson

Baby, it’s hot out there. As Melbourne struggles with soaring summer temperatures, the city’s many cool bars are some of the best places to hang out. You may have to search for them down tiny laneways or on the city’s rooftops, but that is all part of the Melbourne appeal.

Here is a selection to help you chill out while you discover your inner hipster.

Hihou

Enter through a large door with a tiny sign and head upstairs to Hihou, which means secret treasure in Japanese, and you immediately feel like you’ve stepped into a dimly-lit Tokyo bar, except for the view across to the trees of the Treasury Gardens. Hihou’s staff could have been beamed in from Tokyo’s Golden Gai bar district. There is a choice of seating: a long black communal marble table, candlelit low stone tables, or the bar, where you can watch the bartender meticulously make seasonal fruit ‘surprise’ cocktails...

Read More

Insider’s Guide to Shopping Paris’ Left Bank

shopping the left bank of Paris

Shopping in Paris…ah yes, we all swoon with fantasies of Yves St.-Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Christian Dior, and Givenchy. Yet eminently more satisfying…and brag worthy…is to discover Parisian designers whose gorgeous boutiques are tucked away in the fashionable chic side streets of Paris’ arty Left Bank.

Sally forth into the narrow streets of the uber chic 6th arrondisement, where sophistication and intellectual rakishness are on display in equal measure.   This is where designer boutiques, art galleries, and publishing houses live cheek by jowl with institutes of higher learning such as L’Ecole des Beaux Arts and Sciences Po.

Read More

The Australian Open Tennis: The Laid-back and Fun Grand Slam

Fans of The Australian Open MFP

The Australian Open, in Melbourne, sizzles in January…literally and metaphorically.  It is often called the People’s Open because the grounds passes are affordable, its outer courts have a fun family atmosphere and loads of people from the Northern Hemisphere come Down Under to escape the northern winter and bask in the sunshine.

To get you in the swing of things, here is the lowdown on the sort of atmosphere you are likely to experience.

Many fans dress up to support their favorite players.  There’ll be lots of people draped in the Australian flag with large Mexican-style Australian flag or yellow and green hats. Canadians might have their red maple leaf flag painted across their faces. The Dutch dress in bright orange.  There is no limit to the creativity. Fans of rising Thai tennis star Luksika Kumkhum wear home-made We Love Luksika.  A couple of French fans wear Napoleon hats.

facepainting-72* Crowd Pleasers: There are often group organizers at popular matches that start crowd wave...

Read More

A Guide to Telluride: North America’s Coolest Ski Resort

Telluride mfp

Tucked away at the end of a box canyon in Southern Colorado, Telluride – or “to Hell You Ride” – is drop-dead gorgeous and has a terrific personality to boot.

Telluride is not just a spectacular ski resort surrounded by four 14,000 foot peaks (Colorado’s famed ‘fourteeners’), it is also an old silver mining town with a Wild West streak; home to the very first bank Butch Cassidy robbed, right on Main Street.

It’s Aspen without the pretense.

Put simply, Telluride is the whole package, offering a real sense of place in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, fabulous food and wine, and some of the finest skiing and snowboarding in North America.

The Town:

Located on the valley floor, t...

Read More

Six of Australia’s Best Beaches

Australia's Best Beaches

Whitehaven Beach

Around the world’s largest island, life is a beach. Actually about 12,000 beaches and not just any old beaches.  Australia has some of the world’s best with fine quartz sand created from its ancient granite rocks and pulverized shells. Its clean oceans are renowned for rolling surf, the envy of board riders around the world, and its massive reef systems teem with marine life. Many beaches are protected by national parks and have scenic headlands and coastal dunes with vegetation that ranges from tropical to temperate.

Before jumping in the deep end, a word of warning. These visions of paradise can be treacherous.  Always swim between the red and yellow flags (460 beaches are patrolled), which designate safe and supervised areas, and remember to use sunscreen and wear sun protection.

Bondi...

Read More

Photo Friday: Sega Dancers on the Beach in Mauritius

MAURITIUS-Sega-dancers-on-the-beach

I took this photo of Sega dancers on the beach at a small island off Grande Baie in the Northeast of Mauritius. It was a special event for international journalists as part of the annual Kreol Festival of music and dance in December.

Sega Dancing forms a strong part of Mauritian national identity and when you visit Mauritius you must try and see a performance, although the hotel offerings tend to be rather touristy.  Families love to relax and picnic by the beach on the weekends and you will often see people dancing Sega together. If you are lucky to see some of this dancing it will offer a much more authentic experience.

In her book on Mauritius entitled Culture Shock!: Mauritius, Roseline NgCheong-Lum describes the Mauritian Sega in the following terms:

“It is both song and dance...

Read More

The Best Oahu Adventures Outside of Waikiki

Swimming with Turtles on Oahu's North Shore

Oahu is Hawaii’s most visited island and it has so much more to offer than the high-rise resorts of Waikiki along the island’s south coast.

Sure the big winter waves on Oahu’s North Shore have a huge reputation in the professional surfing world but there are also many and varied outdoor experiences all over the island for the rest of us mere mortals.

Here is a guide to the best natural adventures. Oahu is actually bigger than you might think and quite mountainous so it is best to group your experiences in the four quadrants of the compass.

Oahu’s West Coast (Leeward side)

Just six of...

Read More

New York Christmas: best trees, windows, shopping and shows

The Rockfeller Center tree is the largest Christmas tree in New York City

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in the heart of New York City

Ah, Christmas in the Big Apple…nowhere does it better. Elaborately decorated trees; ornate department store windows that look like they are right out of a movie set; carolers at every corner; roasted chestnuts from street vendors. And of course, the best place to go Christmas shopping and see the best shows. If you’re lucky, there might even be a dusting of snow for a carriage ride through wintry Central Park.

After living in New York for 12 years, ten of them with little kids in tow, I have the lowdown on the best ways to soak up the Christmas cheer.  Here is my must-do list.

 New York’s Best Christmas Trees

* The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is the crown jewel of New York’s Christmas trees. In fact the 25-meter Norway spruce is crowned with a three-meter Swarovski-crystal star in addition to its 30-000 energy-efficient LED lights...

Read More

Alain Ducasse’s classic Provencale Inn: La Bastide de Moustiers

La Bastide de Moustiers MFP

The terrace of La Bastide de Moustiers

It is a tradition in Provence that landlords who plant three cypress trees near the entrance to their properties welcome visitors for a drink, a meal and a bed.  French chef Alain Ducasse has a small army of these pencil-thin emblems of Provence lining the driveway to La Bastide de Moustiers.  They are a fitting symbol for this classic Provencale Inn which is a labor of love by the founder of a multi-starred restaurant empire spanning three continents.

Read More

Insider tips on exploring the Komodo Islands

Three Komodo dragons up close

Three Komodo dragons sunbake at the waterhole. Each is three-meters-long with prehistoric claws, beady eyes and scaly skin, which looks like woven metal armor. It feels like I’ve done a Dr Who and dropped into a dinosaur convention. Our diminutive guide is armed with nothing but a pronged stick.

One heaves itself up and lurches towards me, so close I can hear its guttural hiss. A foot-long pink forked tongue darts in and out of its mouth. Meanwhile, saliva is drooling from the other two. Even DreamWorks couldn’t have come up with scarier looking creatures. Suddenly, my walk in the Komodo Islands National Park doesn’t feel like…well…a walk in the park anymore.

Read More