Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Europe's best food festivals for 2016

Rail Europe’s Five European Food Festivals for 2016!

There is no doubt that many Australians have come to love European cuisine, with some of the most popular being French, Italian, Spanish and Greek. However, Europe’s culinary horizon extends far beyond the Mediterranean nations and Rail Europe shortlisted five countries and their food festivals for the discerned foodie traveller.

Tapas, Spain
Catalonia, Spain

Being the European Region of Gastronomy for 2016, Catalonia will be boasting its rich culinary heritage including its 63 Michelin Star restaurants, 12 wine regions and a series of gastronomic hotels. Visitors can expect to have their senses spoiled by vibrant colours, rich aromas and unmistakable flavours of Catalonian cuisine wherever they go in the region.

Exploring Catalonia and around Spain is easy with a Spain Pass or via France-Spain High Speed tickets if heading over from France.

VegfestUK Bristol, England

UK’s largest annual vegan event, VegfestUK Bristol will run over two days from 21-22 May 2016. Visitors can expect to enjoy a weekend of live music, taste international vegan food from about 160 stalls, 15 caterers, bars and juice bars; pick up on some useful cooking skills, nutritional tips; and even learn about the vegan philosophy and lifestyle.

Bristol is 1.42hours by train west from London. Travellers can explore England and the around the UK using a Britrail England Pass.

Prague Food Festival

Prague Food Festival

Running for 10 years now, the Prague Food Festival is an extravagant event that takes place on the verdant lawns of the Royal Gardens at Prague Castle. Taking place from 27-29 May this year, the best chefs and restaurants will wow visitors with their culinary interpretations and creativity. From soups to desserts and beverages of all sorts, there will be endless tasting opportunities, discussions and classes to keep visitors engaged.

Discovering the culinary delights of Prague, Czech Republic and Eastern Europe is easy with a European East Pass.

Stockholm, Sweden
Taste of Stockholm, Sweden 

Running in its 25th year, Taste of Stockholm will take place from 2-6 June. From a two-day event and 90,000 visitors when it first began, the event today runs for five days and welcomes 350,000 visitors. This year will see 24 restaurants, 14 food trucks, 45 chefs (including four Michelin star chefs), 35 bakers and 30 small food-entrepreneurs from around the country educate, inspire and spoil the senses of every visitor.

Travelling around Sweden and Scandinavia can be done cost effectively with a Scandinavian Pass (covering Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway).

Wiesbaden, Germany
Rheingau Wine Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany, well known for its beers and Oktoberfest, is not the first place foodies will think of when it comes to wine, yet it is a country that produces quite a wide variety of wine, some of them featured in the Rheingau Wine Festival. Running for 40 years now and entering its 41st year, the Rheingau Wine Festival will take place from 12-21 August, where a variety of wine estates and local delicacies from Rheingau and Wiesbaden will be featured.

Wiesbaden is a 46min train ride from Frankfurt. Travellers can explore this region and other parts of Germany using a German Rail Pass.

Manager Australasia of Rail Europe, Ingrid Kocijan, says, “Backed by rich history, culture and long-standing traditional cooking methods, Europe is a kaleidoscope of gastronomic experiences. There is certainly a lot more of European culinary experiences to be had beyond the norm or what is already popular.”

For more information on European rail tickets and passes, visit www.raileurope.com.au / www.raileurope.co.nz.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

USA - New York BROOKLYN: Endless possibilities

Visit Brooklyn Botanic Garden to see the beautiful cherry blossoms this spring - and make a day of it in Prospect Heights!

Explore the endless number of diverse activities and attractions that this popular Brooklyn neighborhood – Prospect Heights, has to offer. Don’t miss the local charm found in the neighbourhood’s historic brownstone architecture, local stores and thriving restaurant and bar scene.

Marvel at the design of the memorial arch in Grand Army Plaza, and stroll through Prospect Park bracketing the neighbourhood. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Hanami: Cherry Blossom Viewing - Cherry-blossom viewing, known as hanami, is a centuries-old Japanese custom, a springtime occasion for merriment and the contemplation of life's beauty and transience. Visitors and locals can partake in this tradition at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (below) , home to scores of flowering varieties for public enjoyment. Guided tours focusing on the blooms are held on Wednesdays during the April viewing season, and the more-frequent garden highlights tours touch upon them as well (bbg.org/cherries).

Culture & Entertainment
Barclays Center – The 18,000 seat Barclays Center is home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and, most recently, the NHL’s New York Islanders. The Islanders are headed for the playoffs, making now the perfect time to experience the adrenaline-filled atmosphere of a Barclays Center hockey game. The venue is also host to boxing, circuses, family shows and concerts, including Florence and the Machine (June 14), and Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas (July 8) this summer (barclayscenter.com).

Brooklyn Museum – Brooklyn Museum possesses an extensive permanent collection of ancient Egyptian masterpieces, African art, European painting, decorative arts, period rooms, and contemporary art, in addition to rotating cutting-edge exhibitions and programs. Current exhibitions on display at the museum include:
Brooklyn Museum – Brooklyn Museum possesses an extensive permanent collection of ancient Egyptian masterpieces, African art, European painting, decorative arts, period rooms, and contemporary art, in addition to rotating cutting-edge exhibitions and programs. Current exhibitions on display at the museum include:
Prospect Park - Go horse-back riding or ride the carousel, visit the Prospect Park Zoo, walk through the breathtaking Long Meadow, treat your four-legged friends to a dip at Dog Beach and ice skate at LeFrak recreation center. Attend the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at the Prospect Park Bandshell, New York’s longest-running, free outdoor performing arts festival featuring live music (prospectpark.org).
Ample Hills - Offering creative flavors such as Snap, Mallow, Pop (marshmallow ice cream with buttery Rice Krispies clusters) and The Raw Deal (vanilla ice cream with chocolate flakes and homemade brown butter chocolate cookie dough), Ample Hills (above) is a great spot to take the kids, in addition to anyone with a sweet tooth. All ice cream is made from local, organic ingredients (amplehills.com).
El Atoradero - a popular Poblano Mexican joint that originally operated in the Bronx, El Atoradero features homemade Mexican eats and outdoor seating, ideal for the warm spring weather (elatoraderobrooklyn.com).
El Atoradero - a popular Poblano Mexican joint that originally operated in the Bronx, El Atoradero features homemade Mexican eats and outdoor seating, ideal for the warm spring weather (elatoraderobrooklyn.com).
Chuko Ramen - Chuko Ramen serves up ramen and Japanese inspired dishes with unexpected ingredients and flavour combinations (barchuko.com/chuko-ramen).
Tooker Alley- Serving up classic and modern cocktails, Tooker Alley is a speakeasy that gets its name from the location of Chicago’s famed Dil Pickle Club (tookeralley.com).
O.N.A. – The trendy woman’s boutique features bold, modern clothing and accessories from local designers (onanyc.com).
1 of a Find Vintage - Don’t leave Brooklyn without purchasing some vintage items, whether it’s clothing or home goods (1ofafindnyc.com
1 of a Find Vintage - Don’t leave Brooklyn without purchasing some vintage items, whether it’s clothing or home goods (1ofafindnyc.com).
Empire Mayonnaise - For unique souvenirs from the neighbourhood and a taste of Brooklyn’s artisan culture, Empire Mayonnaise sells a wide variety of mayonnaise flavours including Bacon, Roasted Garlic, Sriracha and White Truffle (empiremayo.com). Unnameable Books - For the book worms, Unnameable Books sells new and used books and also hosts events including talks, book launches and readings (facebook.com/unnameable).

More information can be found at www.nycgo.com.

35th Anniversary Sakura Matsuri – From April 30 to May 1, Brooklyn Botanic Garden hosts the weekend-long Cherry Blossom Festival, known in Japanese as Sakura Matsuri. During the festival, which is celebrating its 35th year at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, visitors can enjoy an array of events and activities celebrating Japanese culture, including J-pop concerts, traditional Japanese music and dance, taiko drumming, martial arts, bonsai-pruning workshops, tea ceremonies and manga art (bbg.org/sakura_matsuri).

  • This Place – This Place explores the complexity of Israel and the West Bank, as place and metaphor, through the eyes of twelve internationally acclaimed photographers (through June 5, 2016). 
  • Agitprop! - Agitprop! connects contemporary art devoted to social change with historic moments in creative activism, highlighting activities that seek to motivate broad and diverse publics (through August 7, 2016). 
  • Stephen Powers: Coney Island Is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull) - This site-specific installation recalls the birth of new public art in Coney Island, and the emergence of a uniquely American and wholly “Coney Island” style of painting.
  • For more information, visit www.brooklynmuseum.org.
Brooklyn Public Library – Visitors can take in the stunning architecture of the Brooklyn Public Library (above) and enjoy its collection of 1.5 million books and magazines (bklynlibrary.org).


The Islands - The Islands gives visitors a taste of the Caribbean with savory jerk chicken and calypso shrimp (zomato.com/the-islands).

Tom’s Restaurant - A family owned and operated diner known for its pancakes, egg creams and key lime rickeys, Tom’s Restaurant is an iconic diner in New York City’s restaurant scene (tomsrestaurant.net).

The Vanderbilt- A seasonal American gastropub with an intimate and stylish setting, The Vanderbilt serves everything from eggplant lasagna to grilled pork chops (thevanderbiltnyc.com).


Weather Up- The old-fashioned cocktail bar and popular local hot-spot is the perfect place to relax with a high-end drink (weatherupnyc.com).


Prospect Heights borders main streets Atlantic Avenue, Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue. It is a quick ten minute subway ride from Lower Manhattan and less than a half hour from Midtown. The 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, and R trains all stop in the neighbourhood, as do public buses, making for a smooth and seamless commute from no matter which borough one is staying.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The longest train tunnel in the world

Switzerland: Exclusive Journey of Discovery

The Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest train tunnel in the world, enters into service on 11 December 2016. Prior to this, the record-breaking construction will be more accessible than ever, but only for a limited period: from 2 August 2016, passengers may descend into the once-in-a-century construction on exclusive tunnel rides - disembarkation in the depths of the mountain included. The special "Gottardino" train only runs until 27 November 2016 and the number of tickets is limited.

The test operation of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is in full swing. The handover of the longest train tunnel in the world by constructor Alp Transit Gotthard AG to its future operators, Swiss Federal Railways SBB, will take place in two months' time, on 1 June 2016, after 17 years of construction.

Catching a train deeper into the mountain than ever before

Before regular operations of the Gotthard Base Tunnel commence on 11 December 2016, SBB is giving customers the opportunity to admire the interior of the once-in-a-century construction. From 2 August to 27 November 2016, the special "Gottardino" train will carry visitors to a record depth in the rock of the Swiss Alps. A special stop will be made at the multifunction station in Sedrun. Here, 800 metres below the surface, a tour will vividly demonstrate the dimensions of the gigantic tunnel system.

Once trains are travelling through the Gotthard Base Tunnel at high speed, a stop in the middle of the tunnel will no longer be possible. Thanks to the new north-south connection, regions and neighbouring countries on both sides of the Gotthard Tunnel will move closer together. From the end of 2016, passengers will cross the Alps in the new tunnel in only 20 minutes and reach their destination faster than ever.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cruising the Amazon River

Howlers, screamers and the perfect pisco sour

Guest blogger Louise Southerden [www.noimpactgirl.com] travels to the Peruvian Amazon with Lindblad Expeditions.

“Anybody been to the Galapagos?” asks expedition leader Carlos Romero at the first night’s briefing aboard the Delfin II, a 14-cabin luxury river vessel and our floating hotel for the next eight days. A few hands go up. “Forget it. Forget about [blue-footed] boobies in the middle of the walking tracks. This is the Amazon. Here, you have to work to see the animals.”

Delphin II, Lindblad. (Picture by Richard Maack

Rainforest walk (picture by Louise Southerden).
He’s right, but it’s our Peruvian naturalists who do the hard yards. They make it look easy. Every dawn and dusk, we board purpose-built skiffs to explore narrow creeks off the main rivers, puttering quietly so as not to disturb birds with names as colourful as their feathers – horned screamers, speckled chacalacas, white-headed marsh tyrants – and monkeys (platoons of squirrel monkeys, solitary howlers). Some days we go ashore to hike in the rainforest and visit villages that have no road access; we also get to kayak and swim with pink river dolphins in piranha-free lakes.

Howler Monkey (picture by Louise Southerden).
And after every outing, the Delfin II welcomes us back with hot showers, fine dining and on-board activities such as talks and cooking demonstrations, including one on how to make the perfect pisco sour, Peru’s national drink. (The secret? Shake it while dancing to some Afro-Peruvian tunes.) The best part is knowing that when we wake up the next morning, we get to put on gumboots and insect repellent and head out again to explore another corner of the world’s last great green wilderness.

How to do it: Lindblad Expeditions runs 10-day 'Upper Amazon Aboard the Delfin II' trips all year round, for a maximum of 28 guests at a time, departing from Lima. See be http://au.expeditions.com/

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New York City neighbourhood


Met Breuer just opened, ‘Museum Mile’, seven new brands launched flagships on Madison Avenue and a foodie hotspot – just a few reasons to explore this beautiful

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the Upper East Side (see picture below) opened The Met Breuer [BROY-er] in March 2016 in a neighbourhood that is already home to some of the world’s most-renowned cultural institutions, restaurants, and shops, steps from Central Park, and is where some of New Yorkers have called home for generations. The new Met Breuer, housed in a landmark building designed by Marcel Breuer on Madison Avenue and 75th Street, provides a new space for visitors to explore collections of 20th and 21st-century contemporary and modern art in dialogue with the full scope of the museum’s collection.

The Upper East Side is a cultural neighbourhood unlike any other in New York City. From The Met Fifth Avenue to the Frick Collection, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and everything in between, art aficionados are guaranteed to find places that will take their breath away. Museum Mile, which runs along Fifth Avenue between East 82nd and East 105th Streets, boasts eight world-class cultural institutions.

The largest luxury shopping district in North America, Madison Avenue teems with the biggest names in haute couture, featuring the world’s most celebrated fashion and jewellery brands, and over 100 art galleries. This historic community exhibits timeless elegance with a contemporary flavour that is distinctively New York. Since the start of 2016, seven new brands opened flagships on Madison Avenue, including Aurélie Bidermann, De Beers Diamond Jewellers, Isabel Marant, Saint James, Sonia Rykiel,Smythson of Bond Street, and Sweaty Betty.

The Upper East Side is also home to great cuisine. Visitors can choose from posh sushi spots, brasserie-style meals, confectionary delights, and nearly any other imaginable option. From JoJo restaurant housed in a lavish townhome, to Daniel Boulud’s namesake restaurant Daniel, to Orsay, diners taste buds will think they are in the heart of Paris enjoying the most exquisite French food. Looking for the perfect brunch spot? Sarabeth’s features a legendary brunch selection and specialty drinks such as the Four Flowers Mimosa and the Pickled House Bloody Mary.

For visitors looking to enjoy more of the Upper East Side can extend their stay at one of the Upper East Side’s luxury hotels such as Bristol Plaza, Hotel Plaza Athenee, Hotel Wales, Loews Regency, or The Surrey.

For more on the Upper East Side, visit http://www.nycgo.com/slideshows/must-see-upper-east-side/1.

For more information on New York City go to nycgo.com or follow us @nycgo_au.

Monday, March 28, 2016

CANADA: Bonjour Quebec!

As I travelled back to my hometown, I discovered new and old favourites. Here are my top suggestions for a walking tour of Quebec, one of the oldest cities in North America.

by Guest Blogger Caroline Faucher, Honey and Paws

All images by Terry Marshman

8am - Start the day with one of Cosmos Grand Allée's huge selection of breakfasts, then walk it off by making your way to the Petit Champlain where you will find charming artisanal boutiques and spectacular views of the Chateau Frontenac, Quebec's most famous landmark.

10am - Grab a coffee and a Beaver Tail, a truly Canadian deep-fried pastry, before heading down to the Musée de la civilisation for a cultural fix.

12.30pm - Avoid the crowd with an early lunch at Le Bureau de Poste, a new eatery with an après-ski ambiance. There, try Quebec’s national meal, the Poutine.

2pm - Stroll down Rue Saint-Joseph to the newly revitalised Saint-Roch district where you will find designer shops and trendy tea houses.

6pm - Head back up town and finish off the day with a gourmet burger accompanied with a microbrewery beer at Chez Victor on Rue Saint-Jean.

8pm - If this isn't enough, make your way to the edge of the old fortress city for some people watching at Carré Dyouville. Depending on the season you might even catch a friendly hockey match played on the outdoor skating rink.

9pm - Retire for the night in one of the city's many old auberges, with some dating back to the 17th century.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Messed up!

From throwing coloured powders at Holi or wallowing in mud at Boryeong, to getting soaked at Songkran and donning glow-in-the-dark paint at a Full Moon Party, travellers to Asia are set for festive fun this Autumn/Winter with some of the world’s messiest celebrations soon to grace the travel calendar.

Claudio Saita, Deputy CEO and Executive Director in Australia for Tokio Marine, underwriters for World2Cover travel insurance, said travelling through Asia is a rite-of-passage for many Aussies and a carnival or festival can be the ideal way to delve into local customs and culture.

“Asia is an increasingly popular destination for travellers, as are the festivals they host. Events such as Holi and Beryeong both attract numbers into their millions and the Australian Bureau of Statistics[1] revealed that in the last 10 years, the numbers of Aussies visiting India and Thailand are up by over 200 and 194 per cent respectively,” he said.

“While festivals can be great fun, tourists can become targets for thieves and injuries can easily occur amongst the vibrant crowds so planning ahead and doing your destination homework is always important to help avoid unwanted travel surprises.”

To help maximise the festival holiday experience, the team at World2Cover has provided five top safety tips:

  1. 1. Less is more – street crime is ever-present so limit the items you are bringing, avoid wearing jewellery, hide your camera and keep your valuables securely stored. At festivals like Songkran Water Festival in Thailand this can be hard but don’t be tempted to leave your things to the side unattended, even if you think you can keep an eye on them. 
  2. Take extra care with your passport, money and credit cards. If your hotel room has a safe use this to secure any items you don’t need to carry. Remember, your travel insurance policy does require you to act in a responsible way to protect yourself and your property at all times.
  3. Respect the boundaries – whenever large events take place, organisers can cordon-off pedestrian zones. Adhere to any set boundaries to avoid accidents or trouble with police monitoring the crowds. When there aren’t any restricted zones, still look to keep a safe distance from activities such as fire eaters and dancers. Leave the performance to the professionals.
  4. Create a ‘safe zone’ – finding people at festivals and parades can be a nightmare, so try to meet your friends elsewhere and travel together to and from activities. Pre-plan a safe point nearby where you can easily meet each other if you get separated and carry a card with key contact numbers in case you need to make an emergency call. There is also safety in numbers, as the risk of kidnap is high in various countries, including India.[2] Sticking together could help you avoid being a target.
  5. Know your limits – cheap alcohol is readily available in most Asian countries and can often be sold in stronger measures than we are used to here. This is particularly prominent at Thailand’s Full Moon Parties where alcohol is literally available by the bucket-load. 
  6. Spending long hours in the sun watching a parade can also make you dehydrated which quickens the effects of alcohol and over-indulging can impair judgement and increase the potential for accidents.
  7. Check your cover – make sure you’re not just covered for the festival period, but for the full duration of your trip which includes the days you leave and return to your home address. Also ensure you’re covered for any of additional activities you may wish to participate in like motorcycle riding or jet skiing during your holiday. There are often exclusions or special conditions for activities with heightened risk so always read your policy to check the limits and terms and conditions.

Messiest Asian festivals include:
  • Mar 24 – Holi Festival of Colour, India 
  • Apr 13-15 – Songkran Water Festival, Thailand 
  • Jul (TBC) – Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
  • Every full moon – Full Moon Party, Thailand 
World2Cover’s policies are available to Australian travellers and have been created to deliver choice and peace of mind for various types of getaways. Products include:

· Basics Cover* – includes full medical and hospital cover plus other basics, and is designed for cost-conscious travellers including under 30’s, backpackers and budget holidaymakers

· Essentials Cover *– delivers cover for rental car excess, full medical and hospital cover along with all the essentials. There are also ski and zero excess options

· Top Cover* – provides unlimited overseas medical and hospital cover plus market leading levels of cover for children and grandchildren under 25 when they are travelling with a family member who is a policy holder

All policies are underwritten by the Australian arm of global insurer, Tokio Marine, one of the top ranking insurance companies worldwide.

*Limits, conditions and exclusions apply so for more information on the coverage options from World2Cover, visit www.world2cover.com.au.

[1] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/products/961B6B53B87C130ACA2574030010BD05
[2] According to a recent NYA International report, India was the second highest ranking country for risk of kidnap in January – December 2014 and risks remain high. NYA International (NYA) is a global risk and crisis management consultancy.