Sunday, September 10, 2006

Aussie Deals from the USA

Aussie Deals from the USA

Talk to a koala and learn about Australia or New Zealand

This is the best tip for planning your trip. Spend 10 minutes talking to the Qantas koala at . Not only is it hysterical to hear his Aussie accent but he has some great information on traveling to Australia and New Zealand.

Ask him "What's new in New Zealand?" or "How long have you been up in that tree?"

In any case you can scan through hundreds of concise travel ideas.

You can enter to win from 26 prizes some of which must cost over $3000. My favorite was the five night stay at the Four Seasons Sydney- although today they are giving away a Hamilton Island Romantic retreat for two people. Wow. There is a great Ayers Rock (Uluru) prize with Hertz and several hotels in the Outback so you can drive and see it all.

If you use the "send to a friend" feature you get an extra entry for each friend that enters.

Enjoy and good luck.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Staying on the Cheap in Sydney

Good thinking- thanks for the question. Australia is ripe with fabulous backpacker accommodations (see some suggestions at bottom) for even less than your limit of $125 US. But if you're past the days of shared accommodation- here are some great ideas:

($125 US is about $160 AUD)

1. pacific international apartments sydney - fabulous location in the Central Business District (CBD) and if you like to walk you're in walking distance to everything- the Rocks, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay. There's also subways all around the CBD. (~$129 USD) 3 Stars

2. somerset darling harbour - also a great location in Darling Harbour area. (~$180 USD) 3.5 Stars

3. Hotel Ibis World Square or Hotel Ibis Darling Harbour. Ibis is a good brand chain and this one's located perfectly on Pitt Street in Sydney Downtown CBD. (~$100-130 USD) 3 stars

4. Sullivans Hotel is not in the CBD so if you like a bit of distance from the bustle Sullivans Hotel is located on Oxford Street, in fashionable Paddington (~$110 USD) 3 stars

Backpacker ideas:

Nomads Maze Backpackers, Sydney Downtown CBD, Less than $20 USD pp.
Bernly Private Hotel, Sydney Downtown CBD, $15-40 USD This is in King's Cross.

Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip!


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Back in Aus- Where to Stay in Sydney

So I'm back in Australia again and decided to stay in a different hotel this time. I'm pretty much a Starwood devotee but the company booked me at the Sydney Hilton in the Central Business District. It's really only about 3-4 blocks from the Four Points at Darling Harbour but the vibe is totally different.

It feels very New York City here in the center of the business area near Town Hall Station and in between Pitt and George Streets. If you head out on George Street and walk about 5 blocks you're in Circular Quay and The Rocks. (Circular Quay is the hub of the ferry system) Across the street from the hotel is the Queen Victoria building which has gorgeous colonial architecture, unique stained glass, and 4 levels of primo shopping. Take the escalators down and you're at the subway. There's a drug store (called "chemists"), supermarket and money exchange a plenty.

What I miss, though, is the view. The Hilton has just undergone a complete remodel and installed delicious bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and modern fixtures. The rooms are still tiny and the tall buildings all jut up against each other blocking out the view (both just like in NY).

I say if you're going to travel all this way, it's worth it to aim for a harbour or bridge view- that's quintessential Sydney. True, you can go everywhere from the center of the CBD, but I think it'll be back to the Four Points where I can overlook Darling Harbour, have a gorgeous mall across the way, and eat on the water less than 1 block walk. When I travel on business, my feet are tired at the end of a long day, and I just LOVE having my crisp, white, steele barreled Australian wine and John Dory overlooking the water.

Other hotels with great views- actually it's hard not to have a water view in this entire city- but in the median price range try Marriott Sydney Harbour or Novotel. In the high end try Quay Grand (fabulous place for a bar scene too), Four Seasons, Shangri-La, and of course, the Park Hyatt.

More to come, I have another week of touring left.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Suckered by Syndey - CNN Article

Reproduced from - this article is a must read!

A Day in Sensational Sydney
By Shanon Cook

Wednesday, May 17, 2006; Posted: 11:42 p.m. EDT (03:42 GMT)

Editor's Note: An Australia native, Shanon Cook has lived and worked in Sydney in the past, including when she covered the 2000 Olympic Games.

Forty-two seconds. That's how long it took for me to become a sucker for Sydney.
All I did was gaze out the airplane window the first time I flew over the heart of the city. It was a brilliant sunny morning, and Sydney Harbor was twinkling like mad. Ferries were chugging away, and there were quite a few sailboats about. The Opera House, sunlight reflecting off its gleaming white surface, seemed to wink up at me as if to say "Ahhh, now you see what all the fuss is about, don't you?"

You bet. I was mesmerized.

So the first thing you'll want to do when booking a flight to Sydney is request a window seat. And give the person sitting next to you strict instructions to wake you should you happen to doze off when the plane makes its approach. Tell him/her to slap you, pour hot coffee over you, stick a pretzel in your ear, whatever it takes. That view simply should not be missed.

Here's more advice: Stay a while.

Please don't be one of the travelers who thinks one or two days is all you'll need to see Sydney. It's not, and you'll realize that as soon as you arrive. International visitors often cram Australia's many other fascinations into their itineraries, but Sydney's not the place to skimp on time. Set aside at least three days. At least!

But if you do happen to be passing through Sydney faster than a kangaroo that's been bitten by a nasty wasp -- and believe me, that's pretty darn fast -- here are three things to do to get the most of your stay in this magnetic city.

And what better place to start than the centerpiece of that spectacular harbor.

1. Climb the bridge

If you stay close to your TV set every New Year's Eve, you've probably seen the impressive fireworks that blast from the Sydney Harbor Bridge. But every other day of the year, the mile-long steel beauty serves as a link between the city and North Sydney.

Since 1998, a company called BridgeClimb has offered visitors the opportunity to traverse the bridge's arch. Sounds pretty strenuous, doesn't it? But it's actually not too difficult. Anyone over 12 and in moderate shape can do it. And if you're still unsure, know that a 100-year-old lady has made the climb.

I'm telling you, climbing the bridge is a must. Not doing it would be like skipping the Eiffel Tower when in Paris.

The guides will hand out overalls that you'll have to put on over your clothes. You're not allowed to carry anything with you on the climb, to keep loose items from dropping on the eight lanes of traffic below, so you'll be asked to stash your belongings in a locker beforehand. You'll also have to pass a blood-alcohol breath test before you go up, so no beers with breakfast.

The 360-degree view from the top is priceless (even better than from the airplane window). You'll want to stay up there for hours, marveling at Sydney's glistening harbor and waving to the Opera House. It's so breathtaking you'll forget you're wearing those funny overalls!

2. Sample some Aussie pub grub

If you do climb the bridge, chances are you're going to be pretty hungry and thirsty afterward. So if your hamstrings aren't too sore, wander into one of Sydney's many great pubs.
One that's worth checking out is the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. Situated in the historic Rocks District (also home to BridgeClimb), this atmospheric pub claims to be Sydney's oldest licensed hotel. It was built in 1841 and has a warm, colonial Australian theme inside.

With six ales brewed on site, the Lord Nelson is a beer-drinker's dream. Try a pint of Three Sheets. It's very popular, and as the name suggests, it'll have you singing merrily in no time.
And to get a real taste of Aussie pub grub, look no further than the "pie, peas and mash," a meat pie sitting atop a pile of mashed potatoes. Heaped on top of the pie is a wallop of mushy green peas. And to add a bit more drama, gravy is drizzled over the whole stack. Trust me, it's yummy-good! But if you're a little afraid, you can't go wrong with the fish and chips.

3. Ferry to Watson's Bay

Although Sydney Harbor can be enjoyed by simply gazing at it, it's much more fun to get on it. To do that, ride a ferry. Catch one at Circular Quay (next to the Opera House) and ride it all the way to Watson's Bay. Not only will you enjoy a picturesque journey through the harbor, but you'll also end up at a spectacular spot to explore.

Watson's Bay is an old fishing village perched on the southern peninsula that separates the harbor from the Tasman Sea. When you get off the ferry, go for a walk up to South Head, the tip of the entrance to the harbor. On your way there, you'll be able to check out Camp Cove, the spot where the first fleet, Australia's first European settlers, initially stopped in 1788 on the way to found Sydney.

When you reach South Head, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the views of sandstone cliffs and rugged coastline. You might also want to walk around to The Gap, another great vantage point on the ocean side.

Finish up at the waterfront village at Watson's Bay. There you can enjoy a glass of wine and a seafood lunch at the generations-old Doyles restaurant. Try the Watson's Bay Hotel for something a little more laid-back.

Just sit back, relax and listen to the little waves rolling on the shore, the tinkering of the sailboats in the bay before you, and the animated chatter of the Sydneysiders around you. This is the Sydney way.

Welcome to the suckered-by-Sydney club.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

How to Relieve Angst from Living in Los Angeles (or whatever urban frustrations you're currently experiencing)


So it's been a challenging few months. The pollen count, the smog, the traffic, the rampant expletives @#$%^@!$#^$ I'm suffering from some pretty overwhelming frustrations. So what do I do when this happens? I dream. Certainly it doesn't improve the air quality or make the road that less traveled, but it's a lot better for the body than a regular dose of Advil.

Dreaming of... changing your lifestyle

My sister bought a fabulous house about 15 miles North of Los Angeles (which takes an hour to get to). And really I have to say that I can't stop thinking about it. There's a whole website for this house built by the broker. It has a pool, rolling lawn, it's always sunny (in the mountains), the foyer is two stories, the countertops are granite, there's room for things everywhere. And it cost about 20% less than what that same house would cost here in the city. Her kids can play and go to school without danger of guns and knives. It seems like such a slower lifestyle where you're not always rushing and slamming on the breaks. So I started dreaming on

Try doing a search in Raleigh, NC for a house on more than 1 acre property with at least 4beds. You'll find a gorgeous plantation style horse property with a gorgeous circular driveway and a pool house! Oh yea, for less than $800K. Nice. Or in San Diego, a contemporary dream in downtown with some famous architect's name and a martini bar guaranteed to make the drinks taste better.

Now, dreaming is just the first step to finding a solution and you can't spend your whole life dreaming. I'm just sharing my dreams with you and hopefully it will help you to create your own aspirations.

Dreaming of... Getting away

Two books for a bit of heaven at your desk: 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. This book offers you a five minute vacation by just randomly opening to a page and letting yourself go there in your mind. Traveling is one of the best ways to learn about yourself and it's no wonder that when we feel like we are stuck in a rut, that we think about leaving the stress behind and adventuring into a new world.

The next book may be harder to find but well worth it. There is a hotel partnership called Small Luxury Hotels of the World ( and they have the most phenomenal boutique hotels throughout the world. My afternoon break today I visited Wharekauhau Country Estate, New Zealand (page 107) and in my mind I strolled by the lake at sunset wearing sandals and a white dress with a glass on New Zealand crisp, steel barrel aged wine. I let the sound of the country side just relax me one muscle at a time. (Or forget the book and just browse the website)

And you know, my angst is a bit lighter, my outlook a bit more energized ... hope you feel the same.

Oops- off topic. I forgot to tell you about an Aussie or NZ deal! Well, if you're looking for a big adventure, check out the Qantas Aussie AirPass. They've bundled your international flights with 3 free flights in Australia starting at $999. How can they make any money on this?


Friday, July 22, 2005

Romance in Australia

Whether you are going on your honeymoon, celebrating a special anniversary, having a last hurrah with your high school boyfriend/girlfriend before you go off to college or taking the dream trip of a lifetime, Australia offers the typical and atypical ideal of romance.

Sure, decompressing on a beautiful soft white silica beach (Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands), being catered to at a five star resort in the middle of the outback, or taking a wine tasting tour through South Australia sound like different people's vision of romance, but with such a diverse country filled with natural beauty and friendly people, unless your a hermit, Oz will keep that sparkle in your eye.

Wine and Food Lovers Loving Each Other

Don't let the twist off cap fool you, most white wines in Australia do not use cork to seal in the libations. You'll find the most wines produced in South Australia, which doesn't mean there aren't gems in other states (such as the Hunter Valley in New South Wales), but if you're just starting your research, best to start looking into South Oz.

Be sure to pop into Adelaide for the quaint feeling of a life easier going and more quaint than urban living. The Barossa Valley is a nice drive from Adelaide, about 30 miles, and boasts nearly 40 wineries offering tastings and tours (in the area between Mt Pleasant and the Sturt Highway in the north) . Visit this site for more info ( Sorry the site is having problems, broken links and such, hopefully they are fixing because the info they have is great.)

The wines you'll find in plenty in this area will be shiraz, riesling and sémillon. Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are planted with less abundance but still available.

You'll find Barossa's most popular vineyards such as Orlando, Wolf Blass, Yalumba, Seppelts at Seppeltsfield, Penfolds, Leo Buring, Kaiser-Stuhl, Hardy’s, St Hallett, Bethany, Krondorfand and Chateau Yaldarra.

Be sure to take a tour so that you and your honey can both partake of the wine. And like all good wine, it tastes better in between kisses.

For an especially romantic B&B: Jacob's Creek Luxury Retreat and be treated like family.

Of course, no one can deny: Peppers Hemitage Barossa Valley with its vineyard views, privacy and sexiness.

Not so private, but fun indeed, tryout the Gourmet Progressive Lunch through Adelaide and hook up for some lunchtime grazing from one restaurant to the next. Fantastic food, amazing local wines and great company.

Art is romantic too. For a modern, New Wave take on connecting with your honey- check out the studio of Robert Bader who's art will make you want to dance all night to this dj.

More to come on Romance in Australia....


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Cheap Flights to Australia

Cheap Flights to Australia

Alas, summer is almost ending and the fares seem to be going up. There are some cheap deals out there that will disappear on Feb 10- a $757 special on Qantas. And then up up and away until probably last minute March specials and last minute May specials.

Is it just me or is United going crazy? Sure I'll take the free blackberry with my purchase of a ticket $250 or more. It's an $800 gadget. But I don't want an electronic leash so that's just me. I wonder if my Mileage Plus miles will be worth anything in a year.

So I just came back from Syd and Queensland. Ahhh, summer in Sydney. Beautiful nights of strolling on the harbour, dining on the unique Australasian cuisine... mmmm Lots of John Dory and Barrumundi and local wine for me. I did find a cool place in The Rocks called Phillip's Foot. You walk up to the counter and pick out a slab of raw meat ($25) and then you grill it yourself on one of the large community grills in the restaurant. Then there's a fabulous fixins' bar with salads, garlic spread, BBQ sauce, fruit and a bread bar. It's fun in a group- but don't arrive starving. You do need to wait for the steaks to cook!

Have you made your way to Hamilton Island yet? You arrive on Jetstar but when you get there, you feel like Mr. Rork is going to greet you in person. It's truly Fantasy Island. One of the best things to do on the island- anything involving the water! There are several pools, a marina, snorling adventures, scuba, but the best of the best.... Tour the Great Barrier Reef by seaplane! It's worth more than it costs and teh memories of such beauty and grandeur, ahhhh, will never fade like that $200 dress. I had never really considered a helicopter or plane tour before this trip, but it has to be the best thing I have ever done on vacation. It even surpassed two days of diving on the Reef. I highly recommend!

Best of luck. I'm off.