Thursday, 10 September 2015


Having lived in Japan for a few years and made several trips there in the last 10 years.
I love this country, it's food and it's people.
In no particular order, my Top 10 is below. I've done 9 of them, the one that eludes me is the snow festival in Sapporo. There are plenty of other cool things to do in Japan but these are things that stand out for me.

1) Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo (indulge in the freshest sashimi. Tip: get there really early to see the most action)
2) Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto
3) Kiyomizu- dera, Kyoto
4) Hiroshima Peace Museum and Park
5) Eat okonomiyaki in Hiroshima
6) Ride the Shinkansen (maybe to Himeji to the castle, which was featured in "Shogun")
7) Sapporo Snow Festival (in February)
8) Spend a day at the Sumo
9) Tea Ceremony, Kyoto
10) Bathe in an onsen (outdoor, preferable)

Monday, 10 August 2015


So for the last 3 weeks I have been flitting around the country and the world for work and pleasure.
My journey started with a corporate Qantas charter straight in to Las Vegas for the biggest prize in my company: Global Ball. This year held in "The Paradise of Vice".
We stayed at Palazzo. There was a pool party with 3000 of us at Encore Beach Club. A conference opened by 'The Thunder from Down Under" with awards presented by Human Nature and then an hour with our keynote speaker, Gwyneth Paltrow. The final hurrah, a gala awards night with entertainment mid ball with "The Tenors of Rock" and then finally our concert with One Republic followed by our guest DJ Sam Ronson.
Sunday was the day of rest, shopping and recovery and meeting with friends before heading off to New York for a very short, very impromptu trip.
I met up with no fewer than 8 friends over 3 nights, took in a Yankees game and rocked out with U2 at the Garden. Took in a couple of free walking tours and stayed at a great little joint on Park Avenue South.
It was back to Vegas on Thursday to catch up with another friend from my running group and try another hotel.
Friday it was all over and it was back on the plane to Oz.
No time for jet lag as it was back to work Monday for 2 days and then on official annual leave for 2 weeks (yep, the ball and my leave didn't quite line up right).
I was off to our Nation's capital for a quilt retreat with my Aunty. We visited Parliament House and the War Memorial and found a couple of great restaurants. After 4 days it was back on the road to our friend's house in country NSW for more of the same, sewing.....all day, except for lunch.
Finally got home just this Friday gone. Aunty went home today and I got back on the training wagon for the Melbourne Half Marathon in October.
Its back to work Wednesday where I think I have all of about 3 days off in 3 weeks.
So watch this space for plenty of new reviews of the hotels I stayed in, the places I ate and the things I have done.
The most amazing thing about these two trips? I managed to use my smaller case ands travel under 23kgs for both trips... yes even coming home from the USA.
Have a great week and stay tuned....

Sunday, 26 July 2015


Just so you all know, I have been overseas for the last 9 days gathering lots of material.
New posts to come, stay tuned!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


I can safely say, I am unable to travel light. I admire one of my clients family that travel with only hand luggage- yes even internationally for 2.5 weeks. "Silk" she says, "Everything needs to be silk". I still don't think that would help me.
However, in my time packing and unpacking (I spent 5 years working on cruise ships so used to pack and unpack my life every 6 months), I have learnt a few things and would like to share a few tips with you.

Have you ever got up in the middle of the night to change over chargers so both your phone and camera are ready to go in the morning? Ever had to carry more than one adapter to charge all your technology? Well no more.
My #1 tip for travelling is 1 x universal adapter and 1 x power board with 3-4 plugs. That way you can just plug all your items into the power board, and just use one adapter. That way you can charge all your items at once. No fighting for the adapter with your travelling companion.

Evening Wear:
My standard outfit to be able to pack as lightly as possible is 1 pair of black pants, a pair of kitten heels and 3-4 nice tops. That way you can chop and change but still have nice clothes to wear out of an evening.

Now, sometimes there are certain things you just can't live without, but you can cut down your toiletries which can sometimes consume 3-4 kgs of your luggage allowance. Being the nerd that I am, I really like to use stuff up, however, if I have a trip coming up, I will often not quite finish my face wash and then put the remaining amount in my toiletries bag to use on my trip, that way I can throw it away before I come home. I do the same with a deodorant. That way, I can throw them away when I am coming home. I take a small shower gel (one I have taken from a hotel usually), and then once that runs out, use the gel in the hotel. Shampoo and conditioner, well, I decant my favourites into smaller containers, taking enough for my trip. I also use face wipes. They are cheap enough to leave behind if you have to. I do however take my eye makeup remover. I kept one of the old bottles and decant enough in for each trip. Toothpaste- I use the little sample ones if I have any or I get one of the tiny travel tubes from the supermarket.

Make- Up:
I don't wear a lot of makeup normally but I do like to wear make-up when I go out of an evening even when away. My basic standard is powder based foundation, liquid eyeliner, mascara and I have 2 eyeshadows and a brown lip gloss. Thats it.

Hang luggage:
This is possibly where it starts to go wrong. I am getting better at this.
Possibly one of the reasons why my luggage has never been lost is because I do carry a spare outfit and about 3 pairs of knickers in my hand luggage. If I am travelling to NYC, I normally will change into clean clothes in LA, so I feel human.
I also carry a deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush (just a disposable one I have picked up from a hotel, hand cream and a lip gloss to counteract the drying air of the plane (about the only time I use hand cream and lip gloss)).
I also have a pair of the Scholl Ballet Feet flats in my hand luggage.
Depending on the trip, I travel with my big handbag and also a hand luggage bag. I really would like to learn to travel with just the big handbag.
In my hand luggage, I carry, cameras, iPad, chargers, all medications, spare outfit and knickers and anything fragile.

Main Bag:
I think the choice of suitcase or bag to check is purely down to personal choice. I have a number of different sizes and styles and use them all.
I admit to being a roller. I roll my clothes to fit more in and so they don't crease. I also recently saw a video of a guy packing as much as I pack in to a big suitcase into a case the size of a carry on.
Click here to see the video. It is nothing short of amazing.
My advice is when you get home from a trip, photograph what you used and wore and then what you didn't so you know what not to take next time. This was a tip my brother taught me. So I am getting better at not taking stuff just in case. Not a perfected skill yet.

What tips do you have?
Would love to hear them, please put in the comments below!

Monday, 13 July 2015


Being upgraded- the dream of many travellers but it's not as easy as some people make out. I work in the industry, so let me iron out some creases. I'm still waiting after 35 years of travel to be upgraded at check in.

1) Business Class is just that, a business cabin, so if you are wearing thongs and shorts or tracksuit pants and sneakers, don't expect one. Business attire gives off an air of professionalism and you are more than likely to be considered if wearing nice clothes.

2) I am a frequent flyer of a couple of airlines, one of which I am very loyal to. The higher level frequent flyer you are, the more chance of upgrade you have. It also puts you further forward in the line for points upgrades if you apply for them, but please note that many airlines ask you to book a higher fare in order to be able to apply for an upgrade with your points. Say with Qantas, you can't upgrade the first 3 fare levels in Economy. You need to have a fare level in S Class and above to be even eligible to apply for an upgrade that will only be confirmed around 24 hours prior to departure, subject to the cabin not being fully booked .

3) Airlines don't upgrade you just because the premium/business cabin is empty, they upgrade you because they have oversold the economy and need to move some people up/off to fit on the economy fare holders. So if you are well dressed, you are more likely to be considered than someone who is in tracksuit pants.

4) So in saying that, change the way you ask for an upgrade. Instead of saying, "Can I have an upgrade?" why not ask "Is the flight full today?"

5) Many people think that they can buy an economy ticket and then upgrade for like $500.
There are some opportunities in the USA where at check in they are offering upgrades for little outlay- this is because they are trying to move people out of the economy cabin, so they can have them fly, and not have to give them credits etc etc. They are getting you to pay so they can save money. It's actually a really good process as it gives people the opportunity to spoil themselves.

I also know of a middle Eastern airline that has in the past (last 12 months) given my clients the opportunity to BID for an upgrade, nominating how much you would like to pay, if there are seats left in the business cabin and you have the winning bid, you pay for your upgrade at a discounted rate- but I do know the bids are high.

However, here in Australia, think about it, most people travelling to Europe on business class, are paying between $6000 -$10000. Airlines ARE NOT going to allow you to buy an economy class ticket at say $2000 and then pay $500 to get in to the pointy end of the plane, where people have paid up to 5 times more than you to sit there. Far from good business.
So as a point of advice, when you've booked your economy class ticket, and ask your agent how much to upgrade to business, you now will understand why they say you will need to pay the full fare difference which depending on how late you ask for the costing could be around $8000. Business class taxes are also higher than economy class taxes, so you will also pay a tax difference in addition to the airline change fee and your agent's fees (worth paying let me tell you because they sort it out for you).

6) If you can't afford a business class fare (I can't), then consider premium or consider a combination fare where you fly business on the long haul and economy on the short haul. Fare pricing will always depend on season and seat availability- each class above economy has around 2-3 fare levels PER CABIN. Economy has about 10 different fare levels.

Emirates offer a great combo fare. Singapore Airlines will join the premium economy family from August 1 ex Sydney. Premium doesn't give you a lie flat bed (you need to pay business for that) but you get a bit of extra leg room and also the leg rest form part of the seat so you get to actually put your legs up (a bit like the bottom part of a recliner?). I flew premium on Qantas on the A 380 to Los Angeles and loved it. My legs are short, so I usually use my hand bag for a leg rest. To actually have a leg rest that supported my whole leg was great.

Happy Flying!

Sunday, 12 July 2015


So in my day, I have traveled on many many planes, on many many airlines.
Like cruise cabins, I really believe your seat can make a difference to your flying experience, especially for long haul. This post really does focus on those travelling in economy as this group of travellers does form the major part of the travelling contingent. For those of you travelling in business or first, there really isn't a crap seat... so please enjoy. Premium Economy travellers, you may want to refer to the seat maps on the website below.

Now one of the great sites to help you is

You can put in your flight number and date and it will bring up the seating for that aircraft.

*Airlines can change aircraft at any point including day of departure. It doesn't happen often, but please be aware this can happen.

*Seating is request only, sometimes due to operational reasons, you may be shifted, don't get cranky, it may be due to someone being ill or a family who need to sit together and it may not have been possible to arrange that before check in, or even at check in. This does not entitle you to an upgrade.

*Understand that your desired seats may already be being sat in by someone who booked before you, choose your next option.

So what advice do I have for seating? LOTS
So firstly, a lot of airlines close their seat maps (this is the picture of the aircraft you see where you choose your seats from) if the flight is more than 70% full. This gives them a little more control at the airport which they need if people need to be moved to sit next to each other etc.
Some airlines give you a way around this (up to a certain point) if you are/join their frequent flyer. Emirates is one that opens up a closed seat map (unless it is closed to all passengers)  if you put in your skywards number. So it's worth joining and putting the number in your booking to open up that seat map, choose your seat and be a happy traveller.

If an airline requires that you pay for seat selection, I pay. Say Qantas, flying to the USA from Australia, to choose your seat number before checkin costs $25AUD per sector long haul on Qantas operated aircraft. You know what? I pay that. I pay that because I want to have my aisle seat on my row of 4. I don't want to be on an aisle on the row of three. I hear you say "It's an aisle seat, what difference does it make?"
Well, sit on the aisle on the row of 4, you only have one person trying to get over you to go to the loo.
Sit on the aisle on the row of 3 (so on the side of the plane), you have TWO people trying to get over you to go to the loo. You could have to get up twice as many times to let someone out.

So consider the following seating configurations:
2-4-2 - My first selection will always be the 2 on the side, but never fear, if your desired seat is not available sitting on the 4 is not a major deal right? You only have 1 person climbing over you for either option.
3-4-3- My first selection will be the aisle on the block of 4 (I am an aisle person, so this post really is geared that way but the hints may help you with seat selection regardless of preference). However!!! Some 3-4-3 planes offer rows of 2 at the back of the plane, so I will ALWAYS check for this first. If they are full, then I will move forward to an aisle on a block of 4.
3-3-3 -This for me is a no brainer- aisle on the middle block of 3. Chances are, the person may not even climb over you, they may go the other way or take turns.

So here are some tips on aircraft I book seating on regularly (3 class is First/Business/Economy and 4 class is First/Business/Premium/Economy):

777 (300 ER 77W V2) - There are a few versions of this aircraft and most offer 2 seats at the back, but the advice below refers to the 777 version noted.
Row 46-50 blocks of 2 at back of aircraft. 46-48 are great (46 read the info on the legroom, due to the seats being slightly misaligned as the row in front is a block of 3). 48 sits in front of the toilets. I have sat here and there is no issue. 49 is right in front of the toilet door. 50 doesn't recline.

For those of you who want the extra leg room- 71D- not an exit, just in the middle of the economy cabin. For whatever reason it is an aisle that doesn't have a seat in front of it (your tv screen is under your arm rest). At this point, you don't have to pay extra for this leg room, so for those giants amongst you get paying your $25AUD to get this rather than your $90AUD for an exit row.
Also this makes Row 70 a row of 3, now seat guru says it has slightly reduced seat width, but if you are happy with that, you may want to consider this row as it has 2 aisle seats with only one in the middle.

A380 Upper Deck Economy- I spent ages waiting for these economy seats to come live in "manage my booking". Finally they did and I locked one in. Advantage, in the upper deck, smaller cabin. Disadvantage, if you want to get down to see your friends on the lower- you can't. They block off the stairs (for safety of course). But once I got over that, I loved it.

747- 4 Class Aircraft: Towards the back there are some rows of 2 seats in rows 70-73. To some the window may feel a bit cramped but if going for  the aisle or travelling as a couple, this is an option.
Also if flying from LAX-NYC on this aircraft, I book an aisle on the row of 4 towards the front as I want to get off and get out in my favourite town- and yes 15 mins makes all the difference :)
747- 3 Class Aircraft: Rows 69-73 are the 2 seaters.

Row 73 - I recently sat in this row. The recline is FINE. The toilets are behind you, not next to you.
The only draw back is the mis-aligned leg room due to the curve of the aircraft. We didn't find this too much of an issue as you have space down the side of your seat to put stuff.

Singapore Airlines 
A380 Version 1: Seat 48D, same as Qantas with no seat in front of it, thus making row 47 another row of 3 with 2 aisles.
A380 Version 2: Seat 48D, same as Qantas with no seat in front of it, thus making row 47 another row of 3 with 2 aisles.
A380 4 Class V1: 51D in this new 4 class aircraft, making Row 50 the 3 seater in front with 2 aisles
A380 4 Class V2: Same as above

Upper Deck Economy
3 Class- There are economy seats on the upper in a 2-4-2 configuration.
4 Class- No economy seats on the upper.

Virgin Australia
777 (300ER)- Row 51 is a block of 2 in a good position on a 3-3-3 configured aircraft.
I recently sat in the back row of this aircraft in the 2 seater. Pretty happy with it actually. Toilets not next to you but behind you.

Malaysia Airlines
A380- The lower deck config is 3-4-3, but they do have economy class seats on the upper deck. This used to be no children, but the policy changed. In any case, If I can get on the upper deck I will.

777- has a 2-5-2 configuration in economy, so always go for the 2 seats. Sitting on a block of 5 would do my head in.

Cathay Pacfic
747 4 Class- 3-4-3 in configuration except for last few rows which are 2-4-2. I would go for the ones towards the rear, but an aisle on block of 4 is about equal.
A340- 2-4-2 - so the perfect plane to choose from.

Happy Flying!

Saturday, 11 July 2015


Paris, the City of Love. It's such an amazing destination with lots to do. Of course there are all the standard sightseeing things to do- Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Moulin Rouge etc, but there are often things that people should do, some traditional tourist, some a bit different.
See my Top 10 things that sit in my mind as the best things I have done in this fabulous city.
Bon Voyage!

1) Segway Tour (thru City Segway Tours)
2) Macarons at LaDuree
3) Monet's Waterlillies at Musee de L'Orangerie at Tuilleries
4) Eat Fondue on Rue Mouffetarde
5) Cycle Tour of the Palace of Versailles (Fat Tire offer a great one).
6) Visit Notre Dame and light a candle
7) Skip the Line Tour of The Louvre
8) Visit Musee Marmottan Monet to see one of the biggest collections of Monet
9) River Cruise on the Seine
10) Have dinner at Le Relais De L'Enrecote- there is no menu. They serve one thing. I ate at the St Benoit one.

Cheese Heaven- Rue Mouffetarde



 Macarons at Laduree

 Macaron goodness

 Versailles Bicycle Tour

 Segway- I got good at it!

Thursday, 9 July 2015


We stayed at this hotel for 2 nights in May 2014 . We drove in from Cradle Mountain. Wynyard is a lovely little town and this hotel is an absolute credit to it. We called regarding availability of a family room and spoke to Cassidy. She was so lovely. She gave us a rate of $135 including continental breakfast. Bargain. The hotel is single level and on the water in the channel. There are 25 rooms and we had room 7. We had a queen bed and 2 singles. There was also some tables and chairs to sit at. Flat screen tv, toaster, kettle, bar fridge, cutlery and some crockery. Bathroom was walk in shower and had been refurbished. The hotel also has a lovely lounge as well as an outdoor sitting area. There are board games you can take back to your room. Wifi is not free in your room but it is in the lounge. If you want in your room the fee is $7.50 and they will bring you a router. It is one of the fastest connections I have had anywhere in the world.
Beds were really comfortable and we found out that they had been recently replaced. A total plus for the hotel that were already in love with.
We decided to stay a second night almost straight away and use it for a base to head to Stanley for a day trip. The continental breakfast was really lovely. Cereal, fruit, yoghurt, juice, cheese, ham and 2 x 4 slice toasters with 3 types of bread as well as crumpets. A really lovely little spread.
Melissa was on the desk on the second morning and she was equally as lovely as Cassidy. The staff at this hotel really are a credit to this 3.5* establishment. It's not fancily painted or decorated but it is functional and the staff are just great. You can walk in to town in about 3 minutes and the Wharf Hotel which has a great restaurant is just across the road.
There is a laundry on site at this hotel. It's about $3 a load. Melissa sorted us out with an airing rack as well.
Let's just say we loved this hotel and loved this town. Stay here and be comfortable and looked after.
Would totally be recommending this as a place to stop for my clients. As an agent, I love to find these hotels as I just love good value, bang for your buck and fab staff.
Thank you for taking care of us, we loved your hotel and your town.
Room 7- like all rooms, own car park a few doors down from laundry.

View of hotel

 Breakfast Room

Sunset from our front door.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


I got to stay here as I was in Melbourne for a work conference and awards night, July 2015. I was excited to finally get to stay at the Crown Complex. This complex was a game changer for Melbourne when it was built. Housing a casino, restaurants, shops, bars, 3 hotels, conference facilities, ballroom all in one large location on Melbourne's Yarra river. 
The hotel really is lovely. The check in area was well staffed and the lifts plentiful and fast.
I was in room 2161 which had twin double beds. Floor to ceiling windows looked out towards the Port of Melbourne. 
The room has a myriad of light switches, which took me forever to work out. Just want simple switches and decent lighting. There was only room for one suitcase on the luggage shelf which formed part of a clothes hanging area, there were also two smaller closet spaces, but no spare luggage rack to put out. This is a twin room, but only provides space for one person to put their case up. 
The beds- amazing. I love soft linen. I really liked the pillows. The beds were really comfortable. Good night's sleep.
The bathroom is a modern design but not suitable for conference guests who are two people who may not even know each other. Apart from the sliding door opening up to the main part of the room, so you can say hi to your room mate while brushing your teeth, there is then a huge gap between the wall and this divider, thus allowing your room mate to hear and possibly smell all that is going on in the toilet/bathroom area.
This to me is a major design flaw in this hotel and I am sure that there have been a number of complaints about this. Even putting glass bricks or some kind of screen in that space, would help. 
I think the hotel is lovely, but some design flaws make it difficult for me to understand why the rooms were designed this way to counteract the overflow for conferences.

Room from entrance hall, lighting not so good.

Large vanity area, but only one sink

Toilet to the right, Shower to the left. Toilet door opens outwards towards you, shower door inwards.

Room photo taken from windows, the closets are up to the right. The entrance to the bathroom is opposite the closets up there on the right. You can see the sliding screen and how you can see the shower door. and then on the right of that brown screen there on the left you can see the gap.
Photo below shows how big the gap is.

I took this photo from the gap between the main wall and the bathroom. It was a good 12 inches wide.

Monday, 6 July 2015


It was running friends gathering for brunch that brought my friend and I here on a Sunday, July 2015. Situated on Melbourne's Southbank (Federation Square end), Bear Brass has both outside and inside seating. It's quite a cosy set up. 
To begin while I waited for my friend I started with a freshly squeezed orange juice which was just amazing. Came in one of the new style hipster jar receptacles. I had had a late night out after my work awards and then heading out to visit a muso friend who was playing at a bar in town, so juice was just great.  The restaurant was very busy so being a Sunday, I would say a reservation would be almost essential. 
For my meal I ordered the Eggs Atlantic option and got them to scramble the eggs and put the hollandaise sauce on the side. The eggs were great, light and fluffy and the sauce just yum. The smoked salmon was fresh.
The coffee was ok. Nothing exceptional but it filled the caffeine gap.
My friend had the fruit salad which looked exceptional. It was fresh, and offered more than your usual banana apple orange combo. 
We were there to catch up and although it was busy, the other tables were moving quickly. I did notice that after our second coffee and our plates were cleared, we were given not much more attention. One of our other running friends came in to catch up a little later in our stay, bringing her girls with her. We weren't offered a water refill or asked if we wanted anymore coffees or if the girls wanted anything. When we asked for the bill, that too was a rather lacklustre event and we weren't asked how our meal was.
We had stayed 3 hours but were more than happy to keep buying drinks, but as I said after our second coffee we were given no more attention.
The food here is great and I would return here for that alone.

Breakfast Menu

Juice in  a hipster jar.