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French Film Festival

WOW! was lucky to be invited to the opening night of the 27th Annual Alliance Francaise French Film Festival last night at Melbourne’s stunning Astor Theatre. We were guests of Air Calin and Noumea Tourism. The French film festival runs for three weeks each March and this year will showcase over 50 new films in ten Palace cinemas throughout Melbourne.

We suggest everybody catch at least one film this season to soak up the chic Frenchy vibe. And we’re pretty confident everyone who goes will want to savour more of the French experience.

When you catch the bug, give us a call to plan a holiday in Noumea, our nearest neighbour, and bastion of French lifestyle in the Pacific. Or, if you’re more inclined to roam further, we can design the perfect French holiday for you. Ooh La la!

Strathcona Brownlow Brekkie

For many years now, WOW! Travel has been a major sponsor of one of Melbourne’s leading  educational institutions, Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School, and each year on the morning of the Brownlow Medal Awards, WOW! hosts a number of lucky guests at Strathcona’s Brownlow Medal Breakfast.

Today was something special, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the breakfast, which has become famous throughout Melbourne as the first formal event of the AFL Grand Final Week. On top of a great feed, charity auction and prize giveaways, the invited were also treated to rousing renditions of iconic AFL anthems by the unofficial minstrel of the finals, Mike Brady, and an informative and amusing footy discussion by a panel of AFL experts.

 Gerard Whateley, Guy McKenna, Peggy O'Neal, Kelli Underwood and Wayne Campbell.

L to R:  Gerard Whateley, Guy McKenna, Peggy O’Neal, Kelli Underwood and Wayne Campbell. (thanks to Jordie Browne for the great pics)

We at WOW! Central are very proud of our association with this landmark annual event ( as well as many other charity and community endeavours) and look forward to the 2016 event.

 

WOW! Jodhpur – A city with many names

On Monday, Lisa checked out of the Imperial and transferred to Delhi airport for a short 95 minute flight to the city of Jodhpur and a 20 minute drive to her digs for the next two nights. Jodhpur is a fascinatingly frenetic city, dating back to the mid-1400s. It is variously called the Gateway to the Thar due to its location on the edge of the Great Thar desert. It is also called the Sun City because the sun shines hot and bright almost every day of the year. Others call Jodhpur the Blue City,  due to the thousands of houses in the old city painted in myriad shades of blue; it’s also known as The Walled City because of the City Wall encompassing the old city.

Whatever you choose to call it, Jodhpur is a vibrant, bustling city of about 1.5 million that Lonely Planet recently rated The Most Extraordinary Place To Stay. Lisa agrees, and raves about her centrally located boutique hotel.

The RAAS Hotel

Accommodation comprises 39 rooms, 7 of which are suites with separate sitting rooms, larger balconies and bathrooms. 35 rooms have views of the Mehrangarh Fort and the remaining 4 rooms have private gardens overlooking the old, restored buildings. All rooms and suites have balconies and are decorated with great flair and care. They are contemporary, understated and make the most of Jodhpur’s pink sandstone, stunning black terrazzo and with splashes of ‘Jodhpur blue’. They are state of the art and furnished to an exceptionally high degree of modern comfort and sophistication. Light, space and clean lines are the bywords here.

Jodhpur - raas hotelAll the rooms are air-conditioned (centrally heated in the winter) and are fitted with the latest eco friendly machines, overhead fans, hairdryers, electronic safes, TV and telephones. All rooms come with modern attached bathrooms which have separate showers and cast iron bath tubs. Bathrobes are placed in all bathrooms. Plenty of piping hot water is provided by central and solar water heating systems. Hot water bottles can be provided on particularly cold nights.

RAAS has two restaurants, a covered dining room and an al fresco café: both offer table d’hote and a al carte menus, serving international and indian food. Room service is also available.

DARIKHANA
The terrace of darikhana boasts magnificent views of the Mehrangarh Fort, which glows pink in the day and is gloriously illuminated at night, providing the perfect place for a romantic meal. It serves fragrant dishes which sizzle with the aromas of hand-ground old delhi spices, specially selected from a 200 year old shop hidden in the warren of old delhi. Seasonal vegetables, salads and herbs are homegrown in raas own organic garden.

BARADARI
Serving breakfast, Lunch and dinner daily, Baradari offers a selection of international dishes with a Thai and Mediterranean focus. You can enjoy organic, home-grown salads and herbs as you relax on the terrace and admire the view.

Other facilities include a 15 x 8 m heated swimming pool • free Wi Fi connectivity • Hotel shop • ‘Jodhpur blue’ Tuk Tuks for sightseeing • ila only Spa

Although located in the centre of the action, so to speak, Raas offers a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.   The hotel is a 20 minute drive from the Jodhpur airport and a 10 minute drive from the Jodhpur railway station.

After freshening up Lisa ventured into the heart of the old city, to explore the he city’s main shopping area Nai Sadak which is lined mostly with sari and shoe shops and the Sardar Market, a full-on bustling Indian market with a barely contained riot of sights, sounds and smells. She used the clocktower in the center as a useful orientation point.  She spent a good hour or more in a shop chatting with the very friendly owners over a cup of masala chai. This is the true highlight of Rajasthani hospitality. You will find Rajasthan (and especially Jodhpur) to be full of amiable and kind people who will be quick to offer you chai as a symbol of genuine hospitality. It is not uncommon for them to turn their shop upside down to show you all of their goods, as many are quite proud of their business.

In the evening Lisa was ferried up to Mehrangarh Fort to enjoy a traditional Rajasthani dinner on the Chokhelao Terrace set in the fort’s historic gardens. In addition to the cuisine, the dramatically lit backdrop of the fort and the views of the twinkling city below made for a delightful dining experience.

Next morning, she returned to more fully explore the Fort which dominates the city and is the largest fort in all Rajasthan. Founded in 1458 as the site of Rao Jodha’s new capital — hence the name, Jodhpur — the city has grown around it, and in the 500 years that have passed the fort has never been taken by force. It’s easy to see why: it occupies the entire top of a 150m hill with commanding views all around, with some three kilometres of massive ramparts built around the edges.

Actually, the name “Fort” belies the size of the complex, which houses the Maharaja’s palace, several temples and, tucked away in the back, an extensive garden still farmed to this day. Highlights within the palace include:

  • Moti Mahal (Pearl Hall). Pearl-colored inside and decorated with colored glass windows, this is where the Maharaja held his audiences, with the five alcoves on the far wall allowing his queens to listen in.
  • Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Hall). Just what the name says.
  • Phool Mahal (Flower Hall). The most extravagant of them all, this was the Maharaja’s pleasure chamber, for dancing girls and general revelry.
  • Zenana Deodi. The inner sanctum of the palace once guarded by eunuchs, this is where the Maharaja’s wives whiled away their days. The delicate sandstone screens and carvings are exquisite.
  • Chamunda Mataji Temple. Tucked away at the far end of the battlements, this temple is devoted to Rao Jodha’s favorite goddess and remains a local favorite to this day.

Lisa then caught a tuk tuk for the short ride to Jodhpur’s second most famous attraction, Jaswant Thada. This milky-white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, sitting above a small lake 1km northeast of Mehrangarh, is an array of whimsical domes. It’s a welcome, peaceful spot after the hubbub of the city, and the views across to the fort and over the city are superb. Built in 1899, the cenotaph has some beautiful jalis (carved marble lattice screens) and is hung with portraits of Rathore rulers going back to the 13th century.

She then took a fascinating guided walking tour called Brahmins and the Blue City which took her to a residential part of Jodhpur that few tourists visit. That night, tired after a long day exploring Jodhpur’s highlights Lisa dined in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Darikhana for an authentic banquet of spiced dishes on the terrace looking back on the stunningly-lit Mehrangarh Fort.

WOW! New Delhi Imperial Hotel

Delhi is a huge city. With a greater urban population of around 16 million, it’s India’s second largest city. We know this because Sanjeev, Lisa’s guide in India, told her on the hour-long transfer trip to her hotel, the Oberoi Imperial.

Centrally located with the world heritage site,  Humayun’s Tomb on one side and a sweeping golf course on the other, the landmark Imperial is recognised as Delhi’s first true luxury hotel and in 2015 was rated in the Travel + Leisure’s Top Ten hotels in Asia.

From the twenty-four king palms that lead up to the dazzling white entrance – to the marvellous mélange of Victorian, Colonial and Art Deco styles in its interiors – this hotel stands as a reminder of the birth of the capital city of New Delhi. Built in 1931, it was one of the monuments of Edwin Lutyens’ grand vision of the new capital’s master plan. In addition it was witness to the creation of an independent India when in the 1930s, Pandit Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten met here to discuss the partition of India and creation of Pakistan.

Today, its spacious high ceiling rooms, crystal chandeliers, marble floors and mahogany furniture, along with an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century British art on India, afford its guests a taste of colonial India’s history and elegance.

After a restful sleep in her sumptuous suite, Lisa  took a short walk and rickshaw ride through Old Delhi and paid a fleeting visit to Jama Masjid, the Great Mosque of Delhi (and the largest in India) with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. After a leisurely lunch at a local restaurant she went on to visit several more historic sites of South Delhi before doing what Lisa does best – hit the shops at Khan market.

Khan market has a great mix of bookshops, contemporary Indian boutiques and more traditional clothing and homewares shops. Fab India is a favourite with westerners – it has Indian inspired clothes that you will actually wear back home; Good Earth and The Neemrana Shop have gorgeous high quality homewares; Full Circle books above Cafe Turtle has an excellent range of books particularly on India and by Indian authors.

Khan Market in Delhi

WOW! goes to Rajasthan

Lisa (our WOW! co-head honchette) is settling comfortably into her Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner and preparing for the 12-hour flight to Delhi. For the next week or so Lisa will be visiting  the northern part of India known as Rajasthan (The Land of The Kings).

We are SOOOOO envious of Lisa; she’s visiting the most historic parts of India AND she will be enjoying temperatures in the mid thirties, unlike the early teens we’re suffering right now in the world’s most liveable city.

Lisa has promised to keep us updated on her travels as she swans around the area staying in a series of luxurious five star Oberoi hotels and visits ancient sites and markets. Probably eating and drinking like a Maharajah too.

We’ll keep you posted

Gold Coast Weekend Escape

Last weekend, Blair had the enviable task of visiting the Gold Coast as a guest of Virgin Australia and Air Tickets (the group from whom we WOW! girls source our air tickets – go figure). While this might seem unremarkable to some, it gave Blair the chance to re-live some past experiences and also taste a slice of lifestyle that some can only dream of. #StopDreamin

Virgin Australia

virgin_coffeeThe Gold Coast short break began by settling in Virgin’s Melbourne domestic lounge with a relaxing coffee and chat with her hosts. The recently-upgraded lounge is a quiet haven well away from the hustle of the departure concourse and is a worthwhile additional extra for our clients who don’t automatically qualify for entry with their Gold and Platinum loyalty cards.

Apart from the quality and style of Virgin’s lounge, the other bonus is Virgin’s exclusive express security process that admits entry through security much faster than other airlines. The flight was smooth and comfortable and the in-flight entertainment was seamless thanks to the exclusive Virgin Australia wireless entertainment app Blair downloaded to her tablet before she left home.

On arrival into Coolangatta Blair and her fellow travellers were ushered into luxury mini-coaches and transferred to the Palazzo Versace Hotel on Gold Coast’s Main Beach. Here they were to experience Palazzo Versace’s internationally-renowned High Tea.

Palazzo Versace

The Palazzo was a “first” for Blair, whose previous Gold Coast visits were at more family-friendly (read “slightly less expensive”) accommodations. Situated on the Southport spit between the Broadwater and the Pacific, and right next to the Marina Mirage luxe shopping and dining precinct, the Palazzo Versace features an opulent waterfront setting, spectacular architecture, Italian furnishings, extraordinary service and an ambience of pure glamour.

The visitors were treated to a hotel tour and encouraged to inspect a variety of room types from standard to condominium suites. Blair is now very familiar with the facilities of all room types and will be your ‘go-to girl’ to arrange the perfect accommodation type for your needs.

The reason for the visit, and probably the highlight of Blair’s visit was the sumptuous couture high tea in restaurant Le Jardin that is a daily feature of Palazzo Versace’s offering to guests and visitors.

palazzo_high_teaGuests can enjoy chocolate éclairs, home-made raspberry macaroons, a decadent chocolate berry tart, fresh citrus tart, opera cake, a baked miniature scone, tea cup delight, fruits of the forest lollypop and mini cones, The savoury selection includes a variety of sandwiches including pickled cucumber and herbed butter sandwich, roast beef with horseradish sandwich, paprika egg sandwich and a smoked salmon, caper mayonnaise sandwich.

Depending on the selection of accompanying beverages the weekend high tea price per person ranges from around $60 to $128 (with a glass of Dom Perignon Champagne).

After the feast, Blair and the group returned to their mini-coaches for the short transfer to the overnight accommodation at the Watermark Hotel on Surfers Paradise Boulevard, in Surfers Paradise.

Watermark Hotel + Spa Gold Coast

watermark_hotel_suiteWatermark Hotel & Spa Gold Coast is a 4 ½ star hotel located in the heart of vibrant, sun-drenched Surfers Paradise, just 5 minutes walk from white sandy beaches and popular shopping, dining and entertainment. It has a perfect central location, across the road from Surfers Paradise light rail stop and Skypoint, around the corner from the buses to the theme parks, 5 minutes walk to beach and easy walk into town.

A recent multi-million dollar upgrade saw a greatly enhanced restaurant and bar facility and services catering for all requirements with a games room for the kids, a gym, hair salon , LÁqua day spa and not one, but two pools to choose from.  The east side pool on Level 1 captures the warm morning sun and also features a spa overlooking Surfers Paradise Boulevard.

The larger west side pool deck on Level 2 captures the afternoon sun as it sets majestically over the Gold Coast hinterland and adjoins our L’Aqua Day Spa and exclusive W Lounge. Lazy sun lounges, tables and umbrellas are all yours with poolside food and drinks also available from the In-room Dining menu. Time to chill.

The Watermark has three levels of accommodation to choose from:

Superior

Superior Rooms are named this because they are just that – superior. With many recently refurbished and offering views of the crystal Pacific Ocean or lush Gold Coast Hinterland, Superior Rooms feature contemporary city meets sea styling. Step off the beach into comfortably chic surrounds to wash the sand off and get ready to explore the exciting destinations of Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast.

Deluxe

You know you’ve made it when you go Deluxe. Located on the top levels of the hotel, Deluxe Rooms offer you five-star luxury with spectacular Pacific Ocean or Gold Coast Hinterland views. Incorporating a host of inclusions to make your stay that little bit more special with stylish design at the heart of your experience, our Deluxe Rooms are sure to impress even the most discerning of travellers.

Suites

Watermark Suites take you straight to the top. Limited to three exclusive options, these stylish getaways offer you a unique stay with premium package benefits across the hotel. Spa decks with incredible panoramic views, plush lounges and furnishings and a sense of skyward space all make for the ultimate Watermark stay. Choose from the Spa, Chairman or Premier Suite.

Seaworld

seaworld_dolphin_showProving that the Gold Coast is a playground for all ages, next day Blair spent half a day at Seaworld, one of a number of hugely popular destination theme parks in the region.  This was Blair’s first visit in over eight years when she treated the kids to a Gold Coast holiday.

Impressed by the scale and  quality of the park, and the process of continual improvement and upgrading the result was a park very unlike her last experience.

No visit to Seaworld is complete without enjoying the Affinity Dolphin show, and Blair was a front-row participant loudly cheering the skills and talents of the cheeky dolphins.

A few more hours sampling the various rides and animal attractions left Blair exhausted but thrilled to let her inner child play before the mini coach back to Coolangatta and the Virgin Australia flight back to Melbourne.

For anybody wanting a short break living like an Italian Fashionista, or a fun-filled family holiday, give Blair a call – she’s our expert on the Gold Coast.

 

 

 

The WOW! Girls at LE Miami

June 2015 sees Robyn + Lisa return to LE Miami – an invitation-only showcase of innovative and exclusive travel products unavailable to mainstream travel agencies.

Traditional luxury belongs to the past. LE Miami is the catalyst for the next evolution of travel. We call it definition by style.

In the last 20 years, a new charge of creative, design-led and community-integrated ‘lifestyle’ hotels have transformed the travel industry. The emergence of the new ‘creative class’, representing 30% of the Western workforce and growing by 7% every year, has driven a demand for travel products that are unique, culturally connected and bespoke.

Consequently, the contemporary definition of luxury isn’t about money. It’s about creating an inimitable experience based on style, space, well-being, content, design, authenticity, storytelling, urbanity and innovation. The future belongs to the pioneers with the capacity and bravery to act on this cultural shift first. Our purpose is to identify and unite them.

Read more

Wanderlust from Matt Daniels on Vimeo.