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Life

The way to travel in 2016

When cruise ships parade into the harbours of the world and get fanfare normally reserved for royalty, you know that cruising is more than back in fashion – it is the way to travel, today’s ‘jet set’ are now called the ‘cruise crew’.

Three of the key factors for cruising’s amazing resurgence are: the incredible facilities on board today’s modern ships; the wondrously varied on-shore excursions; and phenomenal range of never-before-visited destinations. And things are only going to get better in 2016.

The modern cruise ship is light years from the behemoths that sailed the waterways of years gone by. These days, there are more boutique-style ships catering from 680 - 1,250 guests – consequently, there is a heightened sense of intimacy and a personalised holiday experience. Staff and crew attend to your every whim and remember your individual preferences, there are no lines, going ashore and returning on board takes minutes rather than hours, and life just seems to proceed at a more relaxed pace.

Facilities and entertainment have been described as a floating five-star hotel crossed with the best of a theatre district. Everything from bespoke spa services to English-style libraries, a live pianist, classical string quartet, dynamic vocalists and spectacular headliners. You may also wish to try your luck in an elegant Monte Carlo-style casino. Some cruises even have guest lecturers who might be historians, naturalists or former ambassadors, eager to share insider knowledge.

Guests’ suites are a personal sanctuary with state-of-the-art custom-made furnishings such as plush ‘Tranquility Beds’ with1,000-thread-count linen, lavish marble-infused grand baths (with a private half-bath for guests), showers, luxurious sitting rooms and private teak verandas. Guests are even given their own range of fine Bvlgari bath amenities^.

On-board dining has really stepped up. Celebrity chefs such as Jacques Pépin are providing signature dishes at a range of dining options from French bistro, gourmet Italian, contemporary Asian, French country cuisine, American steakhouses and more and matched with wine lists to rival any Michelin-starred restaurants.

ADVENTURES ASHORE

One of the major highlights of today’s cruising adventures are the amazing off shore activities, and if you are a lover of food + wine, there are some tantalising travels waiting to be had.

Imagine docking in Monte Carlo and then trekking into the countryside to discover the culinary treasures of Provence on a three-night stay at the Château de Berne. Help prepare a traditional Provençal lunch at the château using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the chef’s gardens, learn about local olive oil production and embark on a tasting and tour of a private wine cellar.

Or how about cruising into Rome (Civitavecchia), and then enjoying a three-night stay in Tuscany, including a hands-on cooking class at Villa Pandolfini and a walking tour of Florence’s legendary attractions such as Michelangelo’s David and Ponte Vecchio.

When ships moor at Athens, guests can visit an open-air Greek market and sample locally made cheese and olives then learn how to prepare traditional Greek dishes alongside a top Greek chef. Top that off with wine and ouzo tastings and a food and wine pairing lunch at revered Varoulko, home to Greece’s top-awarded Michelin star chef.

NEW DESTINATIONS, NEW MEMORIES

Of course, with significant advances in cruise ship technology and the smaller boutique style of ships, there are new ports of call becoming available to guests who are seeking new adventures. In 2016, these include such enviable destinations as: La Paz, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Bandol, France, Porto Santo, Italy, Trieste, Italy; Vlissingen, Netherlands; Helsingborg, Sweden; Catalina Island, California; Gaspé, Quebec; and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, just to name a few.

Yes, the world of cruising has come a long way. Luxurious, intimate and engaging, there are exotic culinary adventures and fantastic new discoveries waiting for you to explore.

To find out more details about some of these great cruises visit Oceania Cruises.

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For the love of Newcastle
Words by Mark Hughes on 16 Aug 2015
Most Selector readers would know that the magazine is produced in Newcastle and as editor I am often asked what is Newcastle like? Where do you go to eat and drink? I like to think of Newcastle as Australia’s best kept secret. Known as a steel city, it has long had a reputation as an industrial town with the smokestacks dominating the landscape. But over the last few decades Newcastle has undergone an amazing transformation. Once the biggest employer in the region, the BHP is gone and the blue collar mentality is changing to white or even t-shirt. The University of Newcastle is now the biggest employer, so in that respect Newcastle is a real college town. With that, there is plenty of creativity, a cheaper standard of living and a growing bohemian café and restaurant scene. It may surprise many that Newcastle is a city of natural beauty, bordered by spectacular (clean) beaches and a glorious working harbour. It is of course the gateway to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest and most visited wine region. Just to the south is Lake Macquarie, Australia’s largest salt-water lake offering a plethora of water-based activities from boating to fishing with cafes, restaurants and museums dotting its shores. To the north is glorious Port Stephens, world-renowned for its marine wildlife with whale watching a regular activity in its pristine waters. A time of change The inner city of Newcastle is also going through a real transformation. The main arteries, Hunter Street and Scott Street were once bustling ‘High Street’ style thoroughfares, with hoards of shoppers and business people crowding the sidewalks. But an earthquake in 1987 had an impact that lasted far more than its initial rumblings. Measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale, the tremors tragically claimed the lives of 13 Novocastrians and also caused wide-spread damage. Some buildings needed to be demolished, while a vast majority in the heart of the city were deemed unsafe for business. With an extensive wait for insurance and repair, a plethora of inner city businesses were forced to relocate. Many remerged in quickly growing suburban shopping malls and, as a result, the city of Newcastle became a virtual ghost town overnight. The city’s recovery was initially hindered by Sydney hosting the 2000 Olympics. Money potentially earmarked to revive Newcastle was funnelled into hastily preparing the state’s capital for the world biggest sporting event.
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Dubai | Utopia
Words by Mark Hughes on 12 Jan 2015
In the history of civilisation, it is fair to say there has never been as much economic and structural growth as has occurred in the United Arab Emirates in the past 40-odd years. From virtual villages, Emirs such as Abu Dhabi, and in particular, Dubai, have become the new business centres of the world, the must visit stop-over destination for global travellers and with that, a new mecca for food. Just a century ago, Dubai was a small community of a few thousand, who survived by fishing and pearling Dubai Creek, a 14 kilometre inlet of the Arabian Sea. The discovery of oil in the region in the 1960s saw unprecedented wealth f lood the seven emirs of the UAE. But it has been how these finances have been spent that has set the Emirates apart and facilitated its amazing transformation. It was the foresight of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai from 1958 until his death in 1990, to develop the region’s economy to prosper once the oil has dried up. The Dubai of today is testimony to the fact his vision has been realised. These days oil production accounts for just six per cent of GDP, with business, trade and tourism raking in over half the Emirates income. One of the biggest incentives for business is its centre point in world trade, between east and west, north and south, and for the businessman looking to make a fortune, the fact that there is no income tax, is a massive lure. Quite simply, what you earn is what you get! And with many companies providing accommodation and expenses, you can see why Dubai has such a large ex-pat community. City of Ests Dubai is the city of ‘ests’ – the bigg-est such as the massive Dubai Mall, the tall-est – Burj Khalifa, at 830 metres the world’s tallest man-made structure, and whose viewing platform on 124th f loor is the highest anywhere, and a must-visit in this city of stunning architecture. While Dubai sits on the edge of the mystical Arabian Desert, it has been transformed into an oasis with meticulously maintained luscious parks and gardens throughout the city. Ninety-three percent of the water is from massive desalination plants, irrigation is recycled sewerage. The city is fastidiously clean and organised with a modern railway system, cheap and reliable taxis, whose drivers all speak English and, most noticeable of all, it is extremely safe. Due to the fact there are severe punishments for breaking the law, crime rates are low (less than 1%). In fact, Interpol has rated Dubai as the safest city in the world for the past decade. All this means it is ideal for the discerning tourist.
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Dusted with Love at Spicers Sangoma
Words by Libbi Gorr on 7 Nov 2016
Many years ago as a couple, we had visited an old Buddhist Monk, Genzhan. It was early in our relationship. The key to harmony was simple, he explained, as he cooked for us in his home a simple yet enriching feast. “Don’t stir the sediment”, he intoned. It would be 20 years later with plenty of sediment that randomly swirled that we found ourselves driving to the Bowen Mountains retreat of Spicers Sangoma . ‘Sangoma’ is a Zulu term used for traditional healing practices of the heart and spirit. This is a retreat aimed at getting its guests to reconnect. Not just with nature, but more importantly, with each other. We have an abiding and deep love for each other. Let’s say that up front. It’s just that life often gets in the way. Sangoma is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, just off the Bells Line of Road before Bilpin. The retreat is secluded within the tinkling of bellbird bushland. There’s nothing else within easy walking distance. 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Picture a glass-walled bathroom with a showerhead attached straight to the ceiling, as if you were bathing in a waterfall. In fact, the shower was just a vast wet area, in chattings length from the freestanding bath. Bathing within walls of glass initially made me feel a little vulnerable, but then I realised there was no chance of neighbours looking in. There were no neighbours. Rhiannon brought us a delicious cheese platter to enjoy with  local wines and craft beers in the fridge, organic potato chips and a peppering of handmade couture chocolates. I asked what other ‘wellness’ activities there were for us to indulge in whilst we were here – a yoga class perhaps? An organised bushwalk? A pedicure? Hot mud bath? Naught , Rhiannon replied. Nothing to distract you from yourselves. Or from nature. There was a TV in the room, but it was tuned to a jazz radio station. Our phones had just enough reception to monitor the outside world, but not easily engage. Wasn’t that fortuitous, exclaimed the beautiful Rhiannon, with a gentle reminder that our job was to ‘reconnect’. Disconnect to reconnect? What a confronting concept. We’d only just relaxed. We decided to nap instead. That big, inviting, clean white-sheeted bed strewn with all those delicious plump pillows just looked so spacious and crisp and welcoming. Thank goodness we woke in time for dinner. A Delicious Dusting The Danish cherish a concept called hygge – the art of creating a ‘cosiness of the soul’ and the dining room at Spicers Sangoma exudes hygge . And it’s that cosiness of the soul which is first on the menu of ‘reconnection’. That first night, our five-course degustation (the style I’d describe as gourmet sustainable) featured exciting combinations, surprising ingredients and matched wines for each course. Apart from being delicious, it was how it was served that made our evening such a spoil. It was a dinner made by people who wanted us to feel good. There was no passive aggressive feeding of us with calorie-laden concoctions that would make us oh and ah and groan with dismay all at the same time. Care was taken to nourish us imaginatively. And the service that came with it too was not too posh, not too familiar, but polished and warm. We were there to connect with our food and the people who had made it. To be nurtured in every way. To enjoy what Sam the Chef had cooked that night – he even brought the plates out himself. We could taste the idiosyncratic bursts of his personality in his offerings. And whilst everything presented was sublime, the nurturing, connective experience was the cleverness of the enterprise. The human condiments season the experience with wit, care and kindness. Artifice bit the dust. Everything bit the dust actually. Sam and his kitchen crew had being playing around with the dehydrating machine and creating ‘dusts’ to sprinkle on an array of offerings – mushroom dust, fennel dust, beetroot dust. The dust, once in the mouth, becomes rehydrated to deliver a burst of vibrant flavour. Cute idea, huh? Metaphoric, perhaps? Connection at last The retreat can welcome 12 people at a time, and it’s run by a handful of staff, who genuinely seem to have as part of their duties true care of the guests as well as functioning of the site. The nightly rate includes three beautiful meals and all beverages (including alcohol), but extras like massages and rose petal filled scented baths amidst a candle lit bedroom must be pre-arranged. The leisurely breakfast both mornings was a standout. There’s a lap pool and sauna, and we also ventured out to do three laps of the property, which took us about 40 minutes, wandering slowly. We felt no urge to go anywhere else. We were loved and dusted. And the reconnection? After breakfast on day two, the inner voices were both civil and calm, to both ourselves and to each other. We had taken time to just bask in the sun. And within those boundaries, these kind people had tenderly dusted our relationship to discover the vintage gleam we know is there. There was no need to go wading in deep to stir the sediment. Just rehydrate the dust to create a burst of colour and flavour once again to surprise and delight us and make appropriate use of the day bed. For those who can submit to tenderness and care, Sangoma is a true spoil. Words by Libbi Gorr.  To find out more about Spicers Sagoma visit   https://spicersretreats.com/spicers-sangoma-retreat/
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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