Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Book early and save in one of Europe's holiday hotspots

Early bookings can save travellers a lot of money and Casa Angelina on Italy’s Amalfi Coast has announced exclusive offers for Australians booking a minimum two nights across all room categories during next year’s European spring and autumn seasons. 

The spring offer is available on bookings confirmed by May 15, 2018, for stays between March 24 and May 31. 

The autumn offer is for stays between October 1-28, 2018.

The deals include 15% discount on best available rates, early check-in or late check-out (subject to availability) €80,00 food and beverage credit and a complimentary bottle of Casa Angelina Champagne and in-season fruit platter in room upon arrival. 

For bookings, contact The Unique Tourism Collection on (tell them I sent you) or your local travel agent.

Casa Angelina overlooks expanses of the Mediterranean Sea from a cliff-edge perch in the quiet and picturesque Campania village of Praiano, which is only a 10-minute drive from Positano and 15 minutes from Amalfi.

The property, which I have not visited but have received good reports on, welcomes many Australians - hence the discount offer. 

A member of Design Hotels, Casa Angelina features 39 rooms and suites, plus four ultra-exclusive Eaudesea rooms, close to at sea level. The chic rooms offer free wifi, flat-screen TVs and designer toiletries - and there is an on-site spa.  

The gourmet restaurant, Un Piano nel Cielo, showcases seasonal, locally sourced Mediterranean cuisine, while the poolside dining offers easy, healthy salads, pastas and other lighter dishes.

There are heated indoor and outdoor pools and the hotel has its own private boats for excursions.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Fly from Australia to India for $241 each way

Ever wanted to go to India? Ever thought it might all be too hard, or too expensive? 

Not anymore. AirAsia X is celebrating the launch of four-times-weekly flights to Jaipur, India, via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, commencing on February 5, 2018.

AirAsia X, regularly voted as world’s best low-cost airline, is running a special promotion with all-in-fares to Jaipur from $241 one-way. Fares are available online and on the AirAsia mobile app for booking now until Saturday. 

Travel dates are February 5, 2018, until May 6, 2018.

AirAsia X is the first low-cost long-haul carrier to fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. This follows a successful launch of the Bangkok-Jaipur route in September this year operated by its short-haul affiliate AirAsia Thailand.

Jaipur is the 12th destination in India on the AirAsia Group network.

AirAsia X Chief Executive Officer Benyamin Ismail said: “This new route will offer travel convenience and affordable options for our guests. 

"Before this, guests wanting to travel to Jaipur with us would have had to first fly from Kuala Lumpur to Delhi for five hours and 30 minutes, or to Mumbai for five hours before taking a domestic flight, spending quite a bit for another hour from Delhi or 2 1/2 hours from Mumbai to reach Jaipur.

"For those who opt for ground travel, it will take at least five hours to get to Jaipur from Delhi and about half the journey from Mumbai. We are expecting to carry between 132,000 and 143,000 passengers between February and December next year for this route."

The "pink" city of Jaipur is one of most beautiful cities in India. As the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is also the largest city in the state and is the first planned city of India.

AirAsia X, together with AirAsia Group, provides Australians with low-cost fares and access to over 130 destinations across 24 countries in Asia, the Middle East and New Zealand, departing from Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Darwin and Perth. For bookings or further information visit

The airline earlier this month celebrates its 10th anniversary milestone in Australia. 

Large new international hotel unveiled for Geelong

The vibrant Victorian coastal city of Geelong is to get a new international hotel with the announcement of the Holiday Inn and Suites Geelong, which will be the largest hotel in the city.

Opening in 2020, the 190-room property will be the first new hotel in Geelong in more than 20 years. It is also IHG's first Holiday Inn hotel in Australia to include a 'suites' offering: with 40 suites intended for the longer-stay segment.
Franzé Developments announced that it had acquired the central CBD site in April, highlighting plans to that include retail and office space along with the flagship hotel.
The hotel will feature an all-day dining restaurant and bar, swimming pool, gym, parking and a meeting facilities including a function room for 250 people.
Paul Franzé, founder and managing director at Franzé Developments, said: “Geelong welcomes around 2.2 million overnight visitors annually, but is dramatically underrepresented by quality hotels. 
"The Holiday Inn brand is known and loved by travellers all around the world, so I can't imagine a better fit for a world-class city like Geelong. With a prime CBD location in close proximity to the station, hospital, university, offices and government entities, I am confident that Holiday Inn and Suites Geelong is going to be a story of success.”
IHG currently has 47 hotels operating under four brands across Australasia: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn Express with a further 15 in the pipeline including Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels.

The new hotel is good news for anyone wanting to visit the Bellarine Peninsula and Moorabool Valley wine regions, both of which are short of quality accommodation. 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Wine industry duo combine in McLaren Vale

Lovers of casual gourmet destinations will be keen to check out McLaren Vale newcomer The General Wine Bar & Kitchen

The new tasting venue and eatery is the brainchild of Mr Riggs winemaker and Zonte's Footstep co-owner Brad Rey. 

The General Wine Bar & Kitchen at 55a Main Road, McLaren Flat, combines a wine bar, open kitchen and cellar door experience - and is housed in a 100-year-old former general store. 

Chef Sommariva, formerly at the Kitchen Door restaurant at Penny's Hill, Fino’s Willunga and The Salopian, creates a daily set menu using the best local produce, with a choice of two or three courses.

The wine duo select their wine pairings to match the chef’s latest offerings, creating bespoke wine and food experiences every day.

Diners can choose to sit looking out over the vineyards, or at what they call “the pass”, sitting at the kitchen bench. 

The General Wine Bar & Kitchen will house both wine labels, Mr Riggs and Zonte’s Footstep, as a cellar door experience. Unique wine flights are on offer. 

The General is open seven days for wine tastings from 10am-5pm with wine flights from $25. The Kitchen is open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday 12noon-3pm offering two courses for $55. On Fridays, The General is open from 4.30pm until late for after-work drinks, pintxos and dinner. 

To check out the daily menu offering and to find out more visit

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Proof that the travelling public are idiots

Where can we see the wild haggis? Can you teach me Spanish in an hour? 

If you ever had any doubt that that travelling public was slightly lacking in the IQ department, a new survey released by the Traveldoge hotel chain in the UK removes all doubt. 

These are Brits, so sympathy is required, but can you seriously imagine rocking up at the reception of your local hotel and asking to use it as the venue for the school nativity play? 

The budget hotel chain polled staff across its 552 UK properties about the weirdest requests they had received. 

Blackpool South Shore was asked to move a guest’s entire room closer to the beach as they wanted to hear the ocean, while London Tower Bridge was expected to accommodate a yacht.

Another team were asked if they could stay up all night sewing crystals onto a wedding dress.  

In Slough, the team was asked directions to The Office to meet Ricky Gervais’ fictional character, David Brent. 

One Halifax guest wanted to be taught Spanish in an hour to impress Spanish investors, while one at Fort William asked about the local haggis population. 

Not forgetting the optimistic guest who wanted Travelodge staff to transform into wedding planners, asking if they could arrange for a ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral.

Which train goes to Hogwarts? 

Please can you stop the wind from blowing? 

Am I able to bring Spyro, my 7ft Komodo Dragon, to stay with me as part of your pet policy? 

Please can you fill my room with pink inflatable flamingos?

All in a day's work for Travelodge staff. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Mitolo unveils new wine and food complex in McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale winery Mitolo has unveiled a new $3.5 million cellar door and restaurant complex.

The new facility offers personalised tasting experiences and Italian-accented food.

The Mitolo family has used 10 shipping containers as the basis for its tasting room, restaurant and event space – an ultra-modern, architecturally designed structure that also incorporates glass, concrete and timber.

“Nothing prissy,” said Mitolo brand founder Frank Mitolo. “A masculine structure just like the big red wines of the brand.”

Mitolo is the first McLaren Vale winery to make use of shipping containers.

The structure is the creation of local architect firm Tectvs, its director Francesco Bonato and interior designer Dina Giannone.

It covers around 24,000 square metres and is a reinvention of the classic Italian "sagra", a popular pop-up festival organised to show off local food and drink.

The landscaped exterior features fresh produce for use in the restaurant.

“I wanted this space to represent the brand and its people,” Mitolo said. “It needed to be unique and special - but it’s not about the building, it’s all about the wines.

“Terroir really defines our wines, and enables us to produce wines that are unique and expressive of place. And each wine comes with its own distinct personality and story.”

It’s now 18 years since Mitolo teamed up with winemaker Ben Glaetzer to launch his own brand.

Mitolo Wines is known for classic Australian shiraz, cabernet and grenache but the family’s Italian heritage is proudly displayed in their winemaking techniques and other coveted Mitolo wines like vermentino, sangiovese and sagrantino.

And guests can match the wines with a complimentary tasting plate for one from the new on-site restaurant, Bocca Di Luppo.

Head chef Tom Jack’s menu owes much to Italian tradition but it comes with a modern twist.

Mitolo Wines, 141 McMurtrie Rd, McLaren Vale.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Wine industry newcomer makes a big impact

Lost Buoy Wines has made quite an impact on the marketplace since launching its first wines just three years ago. 

Based in McLaren Vale and owned by the Kelley family, Lost Bouy has boomed from producing two wines and a few hundred cases in August 2014 to eight wines and 8,500 cases in 2017. 

The estate vineyard, from which the brand-leading Cliff Block Shiraz and Lion Point Shiraz ($30+) are sourced, is located on a cliff top overlooking Port Willunga, while the fruit for the rest of the range, labelled Lost at Sea ($20-25),  is sourced from growers.

With experienced winemaker Phil Christiansen on board and former Schild marketer, and human dynamo Anna Watson running the show it is no surprise that growth has been so rapid.

And with an exciting pinot noir project launching next year, and some covetous eyes being cast at Tasmania, the expansion is not over yet. 

Watson hosted the first Lost Buoy dinner in Tasmania last night (the Apple Isle is the brand's No.2 market after South Australia) and I caught up with her the following morning when she was typically upbeat. 

Sales are buoyant (see what I did there) in Australia and export markets including Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada. 

"It's been a very exciting time," says Watson. "The whole team has been working hard to spread the word about quality and value - and it's great that is paying off."

# Stay tuned for some exciting news on the pinot noir project very soon.