It’s official – the city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, is now deemed the world’s “Most Liveable City”. Ranked by The Economist – the London-based publication – the top ten are, as of yesterday (30th August 2011), Melbourne, Vienna, Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Helsinki, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Aukland. Note that Australia and Canada dominate the top ten. Twice yearly the Economist Intelligence Unit studies major cities globally and assesses them on the broad categories of stability, culture and environment, healthcare, infrastructure and education, ranking them one to a hundred. Those highest ranking are typically mid-size cities with low population densities. In 2002 Melbourne shared top spot with Vancouver, but in the years since, Vancouver has consistently ranked number one.
Melbourne is a vibrant, modern city with a multicultural population of around 4 million – the second largest in Australia. Situated on and around Port Phillip Bay with the CBD sited on the estuary of the Yarra River, Melbourne is famous for its changeable weather – “four seasons in one day”. Whilst the winters are chilly and summer heatwaves are not uncommon, the climate is not extreme.
Founded in 1835, it is a beautiful city of dynamic modern spaces and magnificent heritage architecture. The advent of the great Victorian gold rush of the 1850s transformed colonial Melbourne into one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world.
There exists a long-held cultural rivalry with Sydney. Melbourne is perhaps more elegant and gracious whilst Sydney is more “New York edgy”. Melbourne is referred to as Australia’s “Cultural Capital”. It is home to the Australian Ballet, many wonderful theatres, libraries and galleries and everything else the culture vulture could desire.
Apart from its beautiful architecture, glorious gardens and fabulous shopping precincts, I love Melbourne for its buzzing art scene and dynamic night life. The glamourous riverside Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex, with is nightly pyrotechnics spectacular, is a hugely popular attraction and Lygon Street (“Little Italy”) is also a must-do – bristling with great restaurants, cafes and specialty shops. The Greek Precinct and Chinatown provide equally tempting perspectives of this fascinating city.
Home to the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and that famous horse race – the Melbourne Cup (coming up on the first Tuesday in November!), the city is also renowned for its fine universities and sporting facilities. Public transport is very comprehensive and includes the largest tram network in the world.
Geographically, Melbourne is very well placed – being only a short flight away from four other capital cities – Sydney(New South Wales), Canberra (Australian Capital Territory), Adelaide (South Australia) and Hobart(Tasmania). Melbourne was briefly Australia’s capital city – from Federation in 1901 until 1927, when Canberra became the official seat of government.
Melburnians enjoy many lovely beaches – Port Melbourne, Frankston, Mentone, Elwood and Brighton to name a few and of course St Kilda, with its famous fairground – Luna Park. Heading inland, one can explore the vineyards of the Yarra Valley or venture even further afield to the very picturesque Dandenong Ranges. Yes – life in Melbourne is not too bad at all!
QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
Situated in the Otago region of New Zealand’s south island, Queenstown sits amidst breathtaking scenery on the north shore of magnificent Lake Wakatipu.
Originally a gold mining camp in the 1860’s, Queenstown has a 100 year history as a tourist destination, today ranking as New Zealand’s premier year-round lake and alpine resort. With a population of about 10,500 modern Queenstown is a sophisticated centre – bustling with café’s, bars, clubs and restaurants. There are fascinating art galleries, museums and stylish shopping to enjoy. You will find wonderful wool and sheepskin products in the specialist stores.
With the majestic “Remarkables” mountain range providing a backdrop equal to the finest alpine vistas in Europe, beautiful Queenstown offers an absolutely mind-boggling range of adventures and pleasures.
Around Lake Wakatipu one can indulge in parasailing, wake-boarding and water-skiing, kayaking, sailing and hair-raising jet boat rides.
More leisurely sight-seeing can be enjoyed from the historic Edwardian steamboat, TSS Earnslaw, an elegant old vessel which turns 100 years old in 2012. Enjoy drinks and meals in the on-board café and explore above and below decks. The Earnslaw, which plies these waters year-round, can also deliver you to various points of interest on the lakeshore for visits and excursions. A favourite destination is Walter Peak High Country Farm where you will be provided with a tour and demonstrations, morning and afternoon teas and an optional barbecue lunch. The evening cruise to the farm includes a hearty dinner at the Colonel’s Homestead – a wonderful finale to a day’s adventuring!
The lake extends in a reverse “N” shape for 80 kilometres (50 miles) and is New Zealand’s longest (and third largest). This dramatic setting was the filming location for the Lothlorien sequences of “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings”.
With Heritage trails and wild terrain to explore, walking, cycling and horse-back riding are popular ways to discover the area’s natural attractions. Organised hunting, fishing, trekking and 4WD expeditions also guarantee a great outdoors experience. Skydiving, bungee-jumping, canyoning and white-water rafting will appeal to the thrill-seekers as will mountain climbing and abseiling. So much to do!!
For a truly memorable perspective of this spectacular landscape I recommend the hot-air-balloon experience – magical! Helicopter and light plane charters can take you further afield. Milford Sound is an impressive side-trip – a one hour flight providing a stunning overview of the mountains, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls and forests of the vast and beautiful Fiordland National Park.
We have now had three wonderful family holidays in and around Queenstown – one in Autumn (which provides magnificent colour and atmosphere and great opportunities for exploring on foot, enjoying the world class golf courses and visiting the many lovely wineries of the region) and the other two in winter. We love our winter sports and Queenstown is a mecca for skiers, snowboarders and freestylers, attracting visitors from around the world. The major snowfields are all within easy driving range of the town.
Queenstown is also home to the southern hemisphere’s biggest winter party – the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival. Inaugurated in 1975 to celebrate the first snows of the season, the event now attracts some 60,000 visitors. Kicking off on June 24th, the 10 day festival is a great experience for all ages, with fireworks, Mardi Gras and other street parades, local and international entertainers, “mountain mayhem”, birdman competition, a formal ball, ski races, dog races, comedy performances, jazz, food and wine and much, much more!
Accommodation options are diverse and plentiful across the Wakatipu region which encompasses Queenstown, Arrowtown, Glenorchy, Kingston and Gibbston. Choices range from 3, 4 and 5 star hotels, luxury lodges, motels and holiday apartments to holiday parks, camping grounds, bed and breakfast lodgings, farm-stays and home-stays.
Queenstown is enjoyable any time of year. In summer the days are long with peak temperatures of 20 – 30 degrees Celsius (mid 70’s – 90F) whilst winter brings clear skies, white slopes and daytime temperatures ranging from sub-zero (below 32F) to a maximum of 7 or 8 degrees Celsius (44 – 46F). The ski season runs from early June to mid-late October
Queenstown International Airport is 2 hours from Aukland or a 3 hour direct flight from Sydney or Melbourne.
IT’S A WRAP LADIES!!
One of the smartest items you can take on your journey is an elegant shawl or Pashmina. Whether travelling by air, road, rail or sea, one can always compensate for unexpectedly cool conditions with this indispensible accessory. Cold winds or chilly air conditioning can make for a very uncomfortable experience, so I always have a wrap at the ready in my hand luggage – it takes up very little space (and folded several times can double as a soft head-rest!).
A beautifully draped shawl adds instant sophistication and can take you from the high street to the opera. It also provides a stylish and uncomplicated solution where cultural sensitivities are an issue – in some Islamic countries it is considered immodest to bare too much flesh.
Invest in a few wraps (of different weights and fabrics) – to co-ordinate with a variety of outfits. Shawls and Pashminas are often discounted in end-of-season sales. Look out for interesting designs whilst travelling – gorgeous originals can be sourced at very reasonable prices in foreign markets and bazaars – lovely souvenirs for you and great gifts for your friends!
- Remember to include a smart, sturdy tote bag – canvas or similar (the kind which packs flat in the bottom of your suitcase). You’ll find it so useful – whether popping out for fresh provisions, heading to the beach or doing some serious girl shopping on the fashion strips! I’ve also used mine for carry-on luggage when overloaded. Choose a bag in navy, brown or black – this will complement most of your day-wear and is less likely to show up any unfortunate marks.
If you are venturing into colder climes and about to buy a coat or jacket for your travels, consider going up a size or two. This will allow you to pile on the layers underneath and still button up comfortably.
Santorini is one of the most beautiful and romantic islands of the Cyclades. Apart from the attractions of its rugged volcanic formations and many delightful villages, with their signature white & blue architecture, the island abounds with lovely beaches, large and small. Coloured volcanic sands extend to the oh-so-blue Aegean, enticing hordes of tourists during the high season. Santorini (officially named Thera) is most popular in summer, with day temps in the high 20s to mid 30s. Not a sun-worshipper, I prefer to visit in the milder weather of spring and autumn.
Lots to do and see apart from enjoying the water – museums, churches, cycling, donkey rides and delightful walks. For the first time visitor I recommend one of the many guided tours to fully appreciate this island’s fascinating history and culture. The more adventurous will be tempted by a volcano hike or a unique scuba diving experience!
Charter a yacht to explore the dramatic coastline and beyond, or visit the many cafes and restaurants perched along the caldera (cliff). Sample the unique cuisine of Greece and enjoy the local wines whilst embracing the stunning views!
Shopping in the quaint villages is an experience for all the senses – so much colour and atmosphere and so many covetable treasures in the numerous boutiques, markets and galleries – I love hunting for unusual jewellery and every visit I also acquire at least one pair of gorgeous hand-made sandals!
Santorini also offers a vibrant nightlife with a multitude of bars and clubs – try the hot spots in Fira (most popular), Perissa, Oia and Kamari. Accommodation options are many, ranging from bungalows and apartments to 5 star hotels. You can reach the island by air or sea with flights and ferries even more frequent during the high season.