Can you imagine lying here today by the pool at the chic Katikies Hotel in Oia, Santorini, perhaps a bloody mary and a piece of homemade spanakopita. I can. It’s where I’d rather be.
I took a trip down to Mollymook a few weeks back to try out international chef, Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant at Bannisters Lodge. Everything was gorgeous, from our luxury suite to the Madras snapper curry I’d been craving since I saw him cooking up a storm on his India series. The New Daily have published my review and you can read it here.
I’ve had a little profile appear in this week’s Wayside Chapel newsletter. Wayside is a place where homeless and disadvantage people can go for a shower, buy a nutritious cheap meal, get great support and access to services, as well as enjoying the company of others. I volunteer there on the front desk.
I was in two minds about posting the profile here – as much as I love promoting the work of The Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, I also felt like a bit ‘on myself’ putting my connection out there. Then I thought, that’s ridiculous, so here it is. Have a read and learn more about what happens at Wayside. You can also donate money or time if you visit here.
When did you start at The Wayside?
I started on the CSC (Community Service Centre) desk in June 2012.
What attracted you to this fabulous place?
I moved to Sydney a few years ago and wanted to do volunteer work connected to disadvantaged, vulnerable or homeless people, but found all the organisations I approached didn’t need volunteers at that time. My partner’s father sent me the Inner Circle newsletter and immediately I felt a connection with Graham’s words and the idea behind Wayside. I’ve always felt very strongly about helping those who may be doing it tough, with no judgement or divide, so Wayside was a perfect fit for me. I have great respect for the work of Wayside and have even roped my sister in with fundraising and my brother now volunteers in Youth.
What is the highlight of volunteering here?
Every time I’m on the CSC, I walk away with an amazing story, a new connection, or something significant to think about – sometimes from visitors, sometimes fellow volunteers. Everyone has a story to tell and it’s a privilege when a person decides to share something close to their heart.
And maybe a lowlight?
The day I learnt that I should wear my glasses when I’m on the CSC desk. A lovely, but dentally challenged visitor accidentally spat in my eyes while we were chatting in one of my first shifts. I’m not a hygiene freak but I learnt it’s probably a good idea to keep my glasses on!
What is your passion?
My passion is writing and I’m fortunate to have made a career of it. I write about food, wine and travel for magazines and newspapers, a bit of corporate content and have a blog [www.theairloom.wordpress.com] and a website about socially responsible travel [www.unravelledtravel.com]. Travel is my other great love and I try to get away as much as I can, both for work and for play. Recently I’ve enjoyed spending time in Japan, Egypt, Morocco, Scotland and road tripping in WA.
Photo: Anna Partridge.
I’ve always loved Missoni, the Italian fashion label founded in 1953 by Ottavia and Rosita Missoni. Their colourful, woven knitwear and fabrics, now walk the runways and adorn luxurious homes around the world. And a whole hotel in Edinburgh. I had a spare night in Edinburgh recently so it was perfect timing for a night of luxury at Hotel Missoni.
Check in was a treat with staff wearing funky Missoni kilts – the guys looking particularly hunky in their long socks. It was quick and seamless, the check in that is, and I was up exploring the room in record time. There are Missoni fabrics and prints everywhere in the room, which you’d think was quite busy, but it all worked to create a calming and sophisticated space. The wooden floorboards were a nice touch, you don’t normally see those in a hotel room, and as an asthmatic, I love them.
San Pellegrino mineral waters and Scottish sparkling water are complimentary, as is the coffee – complete with espresso machine. The coffee cups are so gorgeous, I wish they were complimentary too, but you can buy them in the lobby. The bathroom does a lot with a smallish space – the walk in shower is great, with the added pleasure of Missoni gowns. The slippers are heaven and I’m still using these at home.
I’d already had a few nights in Edinburgh, so I opted to have dinner in house in the Italian restaurant on the first floor. Great decision, even as a solo diner. Sometimes you can feel like a bit of a goose solo dining, but the staff here were fantastic – all Italian boys – and very interested in food and wine. I have some great conversations with the sommelier about the wines I try, even a few sneaky sips of some wines he wants me to try, and extra bites from the waiter. I walk away feeling like I’ve had dinner with the whole group of them.
In 2014 Scotland welcomes the world to join in the exciting Year of Homecoming. Visit Scotland are encouraging anyone with Scottish heritage or a passion for Scotland to head to the homeland for a visit. My night at Missoni was courtesy of Creative Holidays who can put together great stopovers – flights, accommodation and activities.
“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes. There beneath the blue suburban skies.” It hits me. You can’t argue about the cultural significance of The Beatles, but it’s not like I’ve ever been a true fan of the Fab Four. But on the corner of Penny Lane, with the words of the infamous song ringing in my head, I have a moment. I’m standing where Paul McCartney and John Lennon used to meet up to take the bus into Liverpool town as young guys, to talk music and strum guitars. It feels like a pretty significant historic sight. And just when I think the moment is over and it can’t get much better than that, our guide Phil says, “hop back on the bus, we’re going to Strawberry Field”. Forever please!
I’m on a magical mystery tour through The Beatles haunts of Liverpool, in England’s north with Trafalgar as part of their Best of Britain guided holiday. They’ve lined up local expert, Phil, a bonafide friend of Paul McCartney and a pretty decent John Cleese lookalike [confirmed after my group make him do a ‘silly walk’ Monty Python style]. Phil’s job is to give us the insider experience, and you can’t get any more ‘inside’ than hearing about all the times Phil and Paul have hung out together around Liverpool. This guy is the real deal.
We start at the imposing Liverpool Cathedral. The slightly overachieving 22-year-old architect, Giles Gilbert Scott, won a competition back in 1903 to design a new cathedral for Liverpool. The building was a work in progress through two world wars and many historical moments until completion in 1978. It’s now a seamless blend of old and new – with contemporary art and sculpture, like notable English artist Tracy Emin’s prominent pink fluorescent light installation that says ‘I felt you and I knew you loved me’ in her own handwriting, through to a 15th century wood statue of the Kneeling Madonna by Giovanni Della Robbia. But why is this on The Beatles tour? Phil points out that way back in the fifties, Paul tried out for the prestigious cathedral choir and was rejected. Wonder where that choirmaster is now?
Right near the Cathedral is the Liverpool College of Art campus on Hope Street, where John Lennon was a student in the late fifties. Phil shares that Paul and Yoko Ono have since become ardent supporters of the college, donating millions and that he was lucky enough to go to the opening of a new building as a guest of Paul’s. Phil definitely gets by with a little help from his friends!
Next up is Penny Lane, were Phil pumps the song through the bus speakers. Besides having my ‘moment’ there, I also get totally swept up and have my photo taken with the sign, and enjoy little walk down the lane, singing. The song really comes to life as I see where the bustop, the barbershop and the bank were.
I always thought the song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ was about Strawberry Fields in New York, having not grown up with The Beatles, so I’m surprised when Phil announces the next stop, Strawberry Field (no ‘s’) to see the ornate red gate and field. We drive down a small country lane, covered with a pretty avenue of trees and the song comes over the speakers. When John was young, he lived with his Aunt Mimi nearby on Menlove Avenue, now a National Trust property and our next stop, and used to enjoy picnics at Strawberry Field. When he was older, he would grab his mates and hang out in the field. Even though it’s named Strawberry Field, John would always call it Strawberry Fields with an s, hence the song became Strawberry Fields Forever.
After driving past a few obscenely big mansions owned by local Liverpool football stars, we come back down to earth as we pull into Forthlin Road to see the childhood home of Paul. It’s an unassuming street lined with grey government housing. But as I approach the house, which is now also a National Trust building like John’s home, it’s hard not to imagine a young Paul hosting the other Beatles in the garage as they get their sound ironed out. Feeling another moment coming on, I look to the end of the street and see a beautiful rainbow arcing across the low, grey sky and realise the magnitude of the spot I’m standing. The National Trust believe (and market!) this property as the birthplace of The Beatles, and it’s significance isn’t lost on me, particularly with the support act of the rainbow!
The final, and much anticipated stop, of Phil’s insider tour is having a beer at The Cavern Club. The Trafalgar bus takes us on the journey where Paul and John would meet at the end of Penny Lane and travel all the way into Liverpool city to perform at The Cavern, in their early days. Ringo Starr was the first Beatle to perform here, playing drums in 1957 with the Eddie Clayton Skiffle group. Phil shares that skiffle is a style of folk music with a rock’n’roll influence, normally played on cheap guitars and utensils found lying around a kitchen.
John invited Paul to play at The Cavern with his skiffle band, The Quarry Men, in 1958. It wasn’t until 1960 that The Beatles in their first form (with Pete Best on drums, not Ringo) played the club, followed by the first time as the foursome of John, Paul, George and Ringo, in 1962.
As we take the spiral staircase down what feels like five floors underground, you can imagine the excitement that would have built with each performance The Beatles did here before being released to the world. All up they performed 292 times here, alongside other Liverpudlian bands like Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Merseybeats, The Searchers and Cilla Black, cementing The Cavern as the place to experience music in this city.
These days the club still has live music every day. The day Phil takes us we are lucky enough to see a young threesome playing Beatles tunes, which sounds cheesy, but is actually the perfect ending to the tour – visualising the low roofed, brick walled cave as it would have been back in the day as the Fab Four carved out what was to be one of the most significant music careers in history.
You can learn more about John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono at her new exhibition War is Over (if you want it!) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The exhibition runs until 23 February, 2014. Visit www.mca.com.au for more information.
Trafalgar have a number of guided holidays that include Phil’s insider tour, such as the Best of Britain (from $2725pp). For more information visit www.trafalgar.com/aus
Accommodation: Liverpool Marriott Hotel in the heart of the city served as the perfect base for walking Liverpool.
Getting there: Virgin Trains run hourly from London to Liverpool, for extra comfort book a first class ticket which includes a light lunch.
I travelled as a guest of Trafalgar and this piece was originally published on Total Travel, you can read it here.
Another story in the NSW series for news.com.au is a short list of some great places to propose on New South Wales’ Central Coast. For any boys needing hints out there!
Was your proposal quirky, fun or crazy? Share your story with us in the comments!