Travel tagged posts

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...

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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.

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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...

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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...

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How to Find the Perfect Aloha Hawaiian Shirt

VINTAGE ALOHAThere is nothing like a perfectly draped, classically patterned Aloha shirt to put you in an Hawaiian state of mind.

David Bailey has been collecting and selling vintage Hawaiian shirts since 1980 and he now has the world’s largest collection of 15,000 Aloha shirts at his Bailey’s Antiques Store in a pink stucco building tucked away in suburban Honolulu well away from the overpriced tourist strip in Waikiki.

It is well worth making the effort to get here both for a trip down memory lane and to get some real gems in any price range.  You’ll also discover just how Aloha shirts first became popular and what makes them so appealing.

History

For centuries there were no shirts in Hawaii, much less brightly colored Aloha shirts. The original Polynesian Hawaiians wore tapa or bark cloth with simple geometric designs for special occasions. Then the missionaries introduced solid colored work shirts for men and long shapeless dresses called muumuus for women.

The modern Aloha shirt was de...

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Luang Prabang Highlights: monks, markets and the Mekong

Orange-clad monks at the dawn alms giving ritual in Luang Prabang

Monks at dawn in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is one of last authentic cities in Indochina. This is the place people expect when they fantasize about South East Asia. What makes it so special is that you don’t have to run around checking off a bunch of tourist sites. It is wonderful to just ‘be’ and enjoy the soul of the city.

In the soft grey light of early morning, we sit quietly on a bamboo mat, wicker baskets of sticky rice beside us, across from a shuttered colonial mansion heavy with bougainvillea.

Around a corner, dozens of barefoot monks appear in a swish of saffron, golden bowls hanging from orange shoulder straps.  Locals show us how to earn merit.  Men adorned with scarves over one shoulder as a mark of respect and kneeling women in traditional shawls put fistfuls of rice into the monks’ bowls.

As in a dream, just as the rising sun gilds the ceramic-tiled temple roofs, the stream of gold vanishes and the monks return inside...

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Mountain Lodges of Peru: the Best Way to Walk to Machu Picchu

mountain lodges of peru mfp

Machu Picchu is on everyone’s bucket list but the hackneyed hiking route is over-hyped and in danger of being destroyed by overuse. What many people don’t realize is that the Andes are laced with dozens of Incan trails, not just the one royal Incan Trail to Machu Picchu.

Mountain Lodges of Peru offers a blissfully uncrowded lodge-based alternative route to the sacred Incan site for those of us who would like to make the trek but who would prefer to exchange the bed roll for a real bed and add fine food and wine and even a massage or two into the equation.

This ...

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Kasbah de Toubkal is an Authentic Berber Lodge in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains

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The Kasbah de Toubkal is a beautifully restored stone and thatched-roof village compound that offers guests an insider’s experience of Berber life in the heart of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

I love hotels that help you engage with the locals while still enjoying a touch of luxe. National Geographic Traveler writer Daisann McLane captured the sentiment perfectly when she wrote a piece about her favorite South American hotels. “A hotel is a threshold to an unfamiliar culture…Good hotels have a strong sense of place.” The Kasbah de Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco is a perfect example. And to emphasize this fact, it isn’t even called a hotel but rather ‘a Berber hospitality center.”

Re-imagined by British adventure guide Mike McHugo and his friend and fellow guide from Morocco, Hajj Maurice, who grew up in these mountains, the Kasbah de Toubkal was a crumbling fortified village at the top of the Imlil Valley, which at the time had no electricity...

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Lima’s Exciting Restaurant Scene

MFP new world food

The hottest restaurant destination in South America, Lima was once a mere launching pad for trips to Machu Picchu or the Amazon. Today this gourmet melting pot is luring the world’s foodies with its mind-boggling array of local seafood, potatoes, corn, grains, chillies and exotic tropical fruits enlivened by its melange of indigenous, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese cultures.

Mistura food festival

The Mistura food festival, which, appropriately, means mixture in Spanish, is held in Lima every September.  South America’s largest food festival, it has put Peru on the world food stage. When invited chefs like Rene Redzepi, Ferran Adria and Michel Bras get so excited about what is going on here the word spreads. Mistura takes a broad approach to food, which is why it is so much fun. It is a rich cultural feast with street food, farmers, celebrity chefs, folk dances, restaurants, artisanal products, even a chocolate market and a section dedicated to Pisco, Peru’s famed grape brandy...

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The Rowley Shoals: Australia’s Secret Underwater Paradise

Rowley shoals mfp header

In the middle of the open ocean I’m flying along a coral channel whose water is so clear I could be a large black bird finning through the sky. Below me giant clams flash by with their gaudy dance hall smiles, aquamarine parrot fish nibble on coral bommies, white-tipped reef sharks lurk in shadows and schools of tiny neon-bright yellow fish dart amongst intricate coralline structures.

Just ahead, I try to catch up with the “Hey Dude” turtle in Little Nemo. Only we are nowhere near the Eastern Australian Current on the Great Barrier Reef.

What and where are the Rowley Shoals?

Fourteen of us are drift snorkeling on the other side of the continent at the Rowley Shoals, 250 kilometers northwest of Broome. They are three tear-drop-shaped reefs which thrust up a dizzying 400 meters from the ocean floor on the edge of the world’s widest continental shelf. This reef ride is one of the few in the world that is courtesy of a five-meter tide, which rises and falls in six hours...

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