Category Destinations

McLarenVale: Australia’s quirkiest and most laid-back wine region

McLarenVale-vines-MFP

Just 40 kilometers south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale’s undulating vineyards start in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges and meander down to a pristine coastline of white sandy beaches on Gulf St. Vincent. McLaren Vale is part of the coat-hanger-shaped Fleurieu Peninsula, named by French explorer Nicholas Baudin. Its proximity to the sea creates a mellow Mediterranean climate that is marvelous not only for the vines but also for winemakers, whose laid-back style creates an easy-going ambiance that seduces all who visit. With an irreverent clutch of eccentric personalities at the helm, McLaren Vale wins the award for the quirkiest wine names in the business. Dead Arm Shiraz, Derelict Vineyard Grenache, Woop Woop, and The Mongrel head the list.

While winemaking defines the region today, McLaren Vale was a magnet for Italian immigrants after World War II and became one of the earliest places in Australia to grow olives and almonds. Today there is still a smattering of groves, orchards and dairy farms amongst the acres of Shiraz and Grenache, Italian varieties, Cabernet and some gutsy whites and this local produce is put to good use in McLaren Vale’s terrific restaurants and winery cafes. There are plenty of natural attractions, too, including marvelous beaches and the dramatic gorges of the Onkaparinga River, which offer spectacular bushwalking and rock climbing.

All in all...

Read More

Photo Friday: Heart Reef for Valentine’s Day

Heart Reef on the Great Barrier Reef

I took this photo from a helicopter flying over Hardy Reef in the Whitsundays section of the Great Barrier Reef.  It’s a perfect image to celebrate Valentine’s Day, don’t you think? Many a wedding proposal has been made as loving couples fly over the reef but you are not allowed to snorkel or dive here because of its protected status.

Cruise Whitsundays Reefworld pontoon is not far away and you can spend the day here snorkeling and diving, feeding the giant potato cod and exploring the surrounding reef in a semi submersible. There are helicopter flights from here to see Heart Reef and, if you are so inclined, you can even sleep over on the Reefworld pontoon after the day trippers have left. It is a serenely beautiful experience.

I’d love to hear if you know of any other natural structures in the shape of hearts around the world.

icon-car.pngKML-LogoFullscreen-LogoQR-code-logoGeoJSON-LogoGeoRSS-LogoWikitude-Logo
Heart Reef

loading map - please wait...

Heart Reef -19.746975, 149.207542
Read More

Insider’s Guide to Kyoto: The Golden Temple and other Highlights

kyoto mfp-72

Know Before You Go:

When the Vikings were still raiding England, Kyoto became the imperial capital of Japan, at the beginning of the Heian period, and remained so until the court moved to Edo, or Tokyo, in 1868 during the Meiji Restoration.  To cater to the sophisticated tastes of royalty, Kyoto developed a thriving cottage industry of skilled artisans…kimono makers, wood-block artists, potters, lacquer ware craftsmen and fine woodworkers…which still survives, admittedly in a much smaller way, to this day.

Although it has been ravaged by wars, fires and earthquakes, Kyoto’s cultural treasures helped it to be spared from US bombing raids during World War II and as a result it is one of the few Japanese cities with pre-war buildings such as merchant townhouses.  With it 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines as well as a bevy of palaces and gardens, it is a must-visit historic destination.

First time visitors are, however, often surprised that Kyoto is also a busy modern city whose key industries include information technology and electronics (Nintendo has its headquarters here), higher education (there are 38 universities), and film and television production. If you take the bullet train you will arrive via the futuristic glass and steel Kyoto train station, one of Japan’s tallest buildings.  While, of course, you must savor Kyoto’s historical treasures, don’t ignore the contemporary city, with its thriving food markets, fusion restaurants and cutting edge design stores, where local craftsmen use their traditional artisanal training to create contemporary pieces.

Compar...

Read More

US National Constitution Center: the American Museum of Democracy

National-Constitution-Center-mfp 2

A spotlight picks out an actor, arms outstretched.

I am sitting with my American-born, Australian-raised daughter in a theater-in-the-round at the fascinating US National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

We the People

“We the People… Who are we and what makes us a people?” She continues, “The American Revolution saw a home-grown army of shopkeepers and farmers take on the massed forces of the most powerful nation on earth.”

Rousing music fills the hall, dramatic images of 250 years of a revolutionary story are projected on the floor, on a screen around the perimeter, even on our faces.

More evocative words and images show how the definition of citizenship expanded to include women and African Americans and how the constitution has shaped the United States and other countries around the world.

“The most powerful vision of human freedom ever expressed and it begins with three words…We the people.”

The show ends as it began, with a question, “What will we do with the f...

Read More

Kangaroo Island Luxury Retreat: Southern Ocean Lodge

SOL lead image

The multi-award-winning Southern Ocean Lodge is the master of the wow factor and sets the Australian benchmark for luxury…and environmental sustainability. It is well worth the splurge and makes a perfect base to explore Kangaroo Island, which is often nicknamed Australia’s Galapagos for its remarkable collection of Australian animals and birds.

Designed by Kangaroo Island local and Adelaide-based architect, Max Pritchard, Southern Ocean Lodge, a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia, is an organic set of buildings with a bold, wave-shaped Grand Room as its epicentre, a spa facility perched in isolation and 21 spacious split-level suites cantilevered along the cliffs overlooking its namesake ocean that stretches all the way to Antarctica. The views of the ocean…whether it is calm and aquamarine or wild and choppy…dictate your experience at all times.

The Grand Room features a semi-circle of floor-to-ceiling windows that encourage guests to look outward and embrace the natural wor...

Read More

11 Cool Reasons to Visit Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the first of 11 Cool Reasons to Visit Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is the first of 11 cool reasons to visit Australia

There are so many reasons to visit Australia that it can feel overwhelming to decide what to do. I have combed the country to highlight the best places and most authentic experiences in Australia for my app Australia’s Best Places.

Here is my must-do list.

1. Dive into the Great Barrier Reef

Go snorkeling or scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, which is the world’s largest reef system and the largest natural made structure on earth. Take day and overnight trips to the Outer Reef from locations all along the mainland or stay on exquisite tropical islands like Lizard, Hayman and Wilson.

2. See all the unique animals

Nowhere else in the world are there so many unusual and bizarre animals. Think of the whole marsupial family including koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, wombats, and other lesser known gems like bilbies, bandicoots and potoroos all of which have pouches for their babies.

Then there are the mono...

Read More