Day Tripping to Epping

These hills that greet visitors on Melbourne’s northern approaches once were dotted with sheep and rocks. Now they are blanketed with houses and huge shopping centres.

For lunch, a taste of Japanese tonkatsu at Plenty Valley.

Not fancy, just crumbed pork with udon noodles, vege and egg in a curry, heated by a cute, gimmicky blue gel tealight.

A filling lunch for $16.80 at Fukutontei.

Eden’s Gem

The first cruise ship has docked at Eden port since the region’s bushfires catastrophe – an encouraging early sign of tourism recovery.

The Norwegian Jewel brings 2000 passengers for on-shore tours and activities, which will help the local economy. Though the bushfire season is not yet over, the NSW south coast and Victoria’s north-east coast are desperate for tourists to return.

The Jewel’s operator, Norwegian Cruise Line, has donated $250,000 to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

“It is important to convey the message to the world that Australia is ready to welcome visitors,” NCL Vice President Ben Angell said in a press release.

“NCL is dedicated to supporting the local tourism economy, not just on this first visit to Eden, but across our Australian itineraries throughout 2020 and beyond.”

On her third visit to Australia and New Zealand, Norwegian Jewel is expected to bring 20,000 visitors this season. Cruise itineraries include stops at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Eden and Burnie.

Pic: Norwegian Jewel docks in Eden. Credit: DoubleTake Photographics.

Open letter to UK travellers

Dear UK travellers,

Please visit Australia. We are a friendly bunch, with a continent full of unique wonders, and you get an embarrassingly fabulous exchange rate on your money.
Contrary to our Govt’s silly marketing, most Australians do not have “plastic” faces with collagen lips and botox smiles, but do expect a laugh and a cheeky grin under a layer of sunscreen.
Please also bring any mates who don’t speak English – modern Australia was made by millions of migrants from across the world, and an ancient Indigenous culture. Besides, interpreters can be handy as many of the most popular dishes in our world array of eateries have foreign names.
You won’t miss out on your favorite British breakfast tea but be prepared for arguably the best barista coffee outside of the Mediterranean.
Oh, do you like good wine and cold beer?

Yours sincerely,

Australia

Virgin Air’s Bali bargain

Anyone for Bali?
Virgin Australia has fares $299 one way and $499 return Melbourne to Bali to mark the launch of the airline’s new route. It includes 23kg of baggage – that’s a great price. The economy fares are on sale until Monday November 25, for when the flights start March 29 next year 2020.
If you’re Bali bound, I’d be checking it out:
Website: virginaustralia.com
Instagram: @virginaustralia

Sharks: Don’t put profit before people

Baiting tells sharks to come and eat. More sharks. Hungry sharks. Isn’t that obvious?

As for recent “alarmist publicity” about shark attacks: mate, I would now be alarmed if my loved ones snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef/Whitsundays without local advice. Very alarmed.

Choose tour groups with marine biology experts. Always listen to locals.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/04/tourism-industry-says-lethal-shark-control-measures-threaten-great-barrier-reef?

 

Don’t shell out too much for that soft crab

Soft Shell Crab: it is any crab/prawn – any at all – that is moulting (it has shed its outgrown shell but its new shell has not yet hardened). The key isn’t in the variety or how it’s cooked; it’s all about the timing of when it’s harvested. A few years back, a major airline treated me, and other Travel Editors, to the delights of a chef’s speciality “soft shell crab” in a very expensive/exclusive restaurant at Melbourne’s Southbank. I smiled courteously as I ate, though, frankly, I thought it was like a mouthful of smashed seashells. But that’s my opinion and we all have different tastes – just don’t be fooled into paying heaps for soft shell crab/prawns.
Pictured: Vietnam streetfood soft shell crab/shrimp in light batter, deep fried

All that gold coin in the pouch must be weighing down our Flying Kangaroo

Australians today have 35 million reasons to shake their head in dismay at Qantas.

From the proud reputation of being World’s Best, in a decade or so Qantas has become “the poor man’s cousin” of Asian airlines for service and satisfaction. The class division between First and Economy has become staggeringly stark.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s egregiously disproportionate $24.6 million pay in 2017, and $10.9 million in 2018, could’ve been used to ease the strain on the airline’s cabin staff (they, not the execs, bring the customers back), or on a strategy to reduce fares, or maybe even serve warm food in economy class – there’s an idea.

Qantas’s talented publicists must be working faster than a Rolls-Royce Trent jet engine, to counter-spin the bad media attention. The latest: members of Rock group The Veronicas are talking of suing Qantas after being evicted from a flight over a carry-on luggage dispute.

During the Global Financial Crisis, Qantas’ Joyce and John Borghetti must have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on First Class lounges with Italian marble opulence etc. In a Global Financial Crisis? Is that smart management? No wonder the “fare war” with Virgin, and fuel cost spikes, hit Qantas so severely.

Consequently, Joyce took Qantas to a situation where our proud National Carrier did not have to pay corporate tax. The Qantas Board’s reward to the CEO: $24.6 million pay/bonus one year, $10.9 million the next. What do Qantas-travelling taxpayers think about that?     

I’ve flown on many airlines, and, in my opinion, Qantas now sadly trails behind its Asian competitors. Qantas economy fares are overpriced and with a lacklustre service (though I saw cabin staff trying very hard). Passengers’ complaints about in-flight food arriving cold – or running out, especially on long-haul flights when it’s most relied on – have become all too common.

Qantas was ranked the worst major airline for fuel efficiency and carbon emissions when flying across the Pacific in 2016 (source: ABC news). For evidence of the decline over the past two decades, look at passenger comments posted on http://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/qantas To be fair, people are more likely to post negative than positive comments, but it’s a good snapshot of passenger sentiment.

I will keep flying with Qantas. My parents and their generation helped build Qantas with their loyalty back when air travel was a much more costly endeavour.

We should be proud of the Flying Kangaroo, and the hard working check-in and cabin staff – including in economy class, the paying passengers who are the “bread and butter” that keep an airline healthy. We shouldn’t be red faced and shaking our fists in anger at the stomach churning excess of CEO salaries, and the arrogant segregation of paying passengers.