Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Travelling Cheaply, Part 2: Apartments in Paris & London

Thanks for the lovely emails offering more travel tips. 
If you're heading to Paris and London this month (or next month for the Chelsea Flower Show), here are a few more destinations to help you save the $$$. 

King Street apartment, Covent Garden, London

Utter luxury in the heart of London, from just £273/night.

La Belle Notre Dame apartment, Paris

Pretty two-bedroom, two-bath delight, located on rue d'Arcole (next to the Notre Dame), 
right in the centre of Paris.

Voltaire apartment, Paris

Design, space and savings in one.
 Adore the dining room.

Louvre – Pont Neuf Apartment

A rooftop terrace to sip your coffee in the sun, ample room for the family, and a short walk from everything. (Photo at top of post is also the Louvre-Pont Neuf apartment.)

Le Bonaparte Apartment, Paris

Chic digs on the stylish Left Bank. 
Perfect for a single traveller or couple.

Studio on St Germain des Près

Tight, but totally charming. 
And a lovely location (rue de Furstenberg), from just A$243/night. (Sleeps 4)

How To Travel, Cheaply

Readers write the loveliest emails. This week I received half a dozen notes from some truly inspiring women. One was off to live in London for the summer and autumn months. (I've done that before and desperately wish I could do it again.) Another had borrowed a friend's house in the South of France for a little while. She was reading the Provence book, and hearing the excitement in her emails made me wish I was returning to the Riviera again this year. Oh for the money (and time) to be able to travel in such style!

Some people are really bad at travel. They whinge and grumble about everything. Most of us realise travel is difficult at times, but the thrill of seeing new places should always overcome the displacement. Even in my darkest hours, when I've stood on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris and cried tears of weariness; when I've flown into a hurricane in the Bahamas (on the last flight into Nassau before the airport closed) and wondered if I'd ever get home?; when I've wandered a snowy road in Denmark and felt a homesickness for Australia that was so deep it caused my heart to ache, I've never regretted travelling. Never. 

Even this morning, while trying to book / rebook an international flight (having postponed a trip that really needs to be done) and failing, and then having to ring overseas five times to chase the refund (FIVE times; from Australia!), and then announcing to my partner that I was NEVER getting on another plane again, I knew in my heart there were lots of rewarding places I still wanted to explore.

Over the years, friends have given me great tips on ways to lighten the travel experience. So here are a few, to keep you inspired and motivated, too.


My parents, who travel the globe like the rest of us have cups of tea, rarely return to the same place twice. It's my father's philosophy, and it's a good one. If you always tread the old London-Paris-Italy-New York routes, think about seeing somewhere new. Go somewhere you've never been. 

We're trying to get to Raja Ampat (above) before it explodes with tourism. My niece just returned from Costa Rica. When today's papers announced that "Sri Lanka is the new Bali" I thought: Oh no, there goes another place I've missed, and now it's too late! 

But it's never too late to get off the beaten track and find the side roads of life.

So if you always do London, you could take a train to Bath one day to see the Fashion Museum (above). 

And if you always go to New York for business you could stay an extra few days and get a $100 JetBlue flight to Nantucket island. (Beautiful.) Or hire a car to explore Sharon Springs (site of the Beekman Boys' famously beautiful store) and the villages of nearby Connecticut. 

And if you always go to Paris, you could hire a bike for a day and ride around the gardens of Versailles. Or explore Normandy, and Chateau Brecy, Giverny and Le Musée Christian Dior

And if you always fly through Singapore or Bangkok you could tack on a week and hop across to Angkor Wat, or the equally astonishing Borobudur, above. (Bangkok Air often have $20 flights.) 


If you rack up the dollars before your trip has started, your stress levels will diminish the joy of the forthcoming departure. Find affordable hotels and reasonable flights, and you'll be much happier about heading out. When I gently warned one reader that she may find her Riviera hotel a little austere, she was unperturbed. It saved money for a few days, she said, and the location was perfect. Wise woman.

Two of the lovely women from last year's garden tour are keen to do further tours and so I've been trying to find hotels. There are SO many beautiful places for less than $200/n. Try for great deals, or travel a month either before or after peak season (ie May is often cheaper than June). 

If you're looking for some affordable hotels, here's a good list to start with, below. (NB If you need some luxe, book into an expensive place for one night every week; for the other 6 nights save the $$$.)


The Marlton, Greenwich Village—
The Jade, Greenwich Village —
The Night Hotel, Times Square —
The Roger Hotel, Midtown —

(Note: Do ensure you research hotels in London as some places don't suit everyone)

The Dorset Square Hotel, Marylebone —‎
The Gore Hotel, South Kensington —
The Ambersand, South Kensington
The Rockwell, Kensington —
The Cranley, South Kensington —
The Main House, Notting Hill —
The Spitalfields Townhouse —
La Suite West, Bayswater —
The Fielding Hotel, Covent Garden –
Fox Club, Mayfair —
The Grazing Goat, Marylebone (not as cheap as it once was, but still pretty) —


Don't assume travel has to be expensive. Even the traditionally expensive long-haul routes, say from Australia to London or New York, can be had for half-price. 

Research and compare fares on,, or one of the other travel sites.

Sometimes there even will be airlines trying out new routes for very cheap prices. For example, while trying to find a flight to Denmark recently, I noticed Norwegian Air are now clearly going into competition with Ryan Air and flying direct from NY to Copenhagen, as well as many other routes, for half the price of the other carriers. It's a great way to see Scandinavia for very little.

If you're criss-crossing the US, try low-cost airlines such as JetBlue for cheap deals rather than bigger airlines such as United or Virgin. 

Or consider breaking up your long-haul flight by grabbing a cheap Jetstar flight to Singapore ($300 return from Australia at the moment) or Hong Kong, then picking up one of the top-tier carriers such as Singapore Airlines from there to your final destination.

Sri Lanka Airlines flies from Singapore to London for just $900, and you can often get a free stopover for a day or two in Colomb -- enough time to pick up a Ceylon sapphire!

Even direct flights, such as Sin-Lon-Sin (return) with Singapore Airlines (the best airline in the world) are only $1000, which will make your return fare from Australia to Europe just $1300. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Books, Hotels, Hideaways & Other Discoveries

New Discoveries of 2014.

Some have been launched for a little while; 
others are getting ready to be launched in the next few months.

Hayman Island, 
Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

Getting ready to re-open after an enormous renovation under new owners One & Only Resorts, the island resort of Hayman will look remarkably different from its old self. Newly decorated suites seem larger and more modern, the service is already better and the excursions to neighbouring islands and the reef promise to be trips to remember. Prices, while not cheap, aren't prohibitive, with rooms being offered at a 25% discount through the soft opening period. 

Opening July 2014.

Ham Yard Hotel, 

Firmdale Hotels' latest venture, with the usual sublime decorating by Kit Kemp. Just as beautiful as Number Sixteen, Dorset Square, Covent Garden and all her other projects.

Opening June 2014.

The Ritz, Paris.

Also getting set to re-open after a 2-year closure for refurbishment.
(If you can't afford a room, slip in for a drink, a meal, or to use the extraordinary spa and pool.)

Opening mid-year.

Hotel Fabric, Paris.

Created from a former textiles factory. Full of fabric whimsy. And not expensive, either.


The Siam, Bangkok.

My new favourite. The interior design is sublime.


Park Hyatt, 
Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Another new favourite. Refashioned from the Hôtel de La Paix, the new Park Hyatt-managed hotel, which re-opened late last year, hasn't lost any of the Paix's legendary grace and style, but has simply refreshed the space. So incredibly cheap too. As are all the hotels in Siem Reap.


The Beaumont, 
Mayfair, London.

Opening soon in the shell of a former 1920's Art Deco garage. So striking.

Opening later this year.

Living Life Beautifully:
Christina Strutt.

A new book from one of my favourite designers, Christina Strutt of Cabbages & Roses, who's not only opened a new Cabbages & Roses store in Chelsea, right next door to The Chelsea Gardener, but is also holding a marvellous summer fair in Bath, where her country home is, in early June. (Run together with Love Love Vintage; who have the most wonderful vintage wares and fabric fairs).

Published by Cico Books. Out now.

ABC: David Collins Studio

An eagerly awaited new book about the work of London designer David Collins, who sadly passed away last year. The new book was in production when David Collins was alive, and has been written by him, with a foreword by Madonna.The launch is edged with sadness, but I think he would have liked the finished project.

Published by Assouline this month.

Dior: The Legendary Images.

Published to accompany the new exhibition at Le Musée Christian-Dior, at Granville in Normandy, opening shortly.

 Published by Rizzoli this month.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Importance of Kindness

After seeing the extraordinarily touching Australian Story episode on Tara Winkler and the Cambodian Children's Trust a few weeks ago, I was so moved that I decided to touch base with CCT, who kindly replied right away. (Amazing, given the response they've had). Long story short: I'm heading off on a business trip, and have decided to do a detour to Cambodia, at the invitation of one of CCT's lovely staff.

Supplies are going along.

It doesn't take much to help people. An extra suitcase. A helping hand. A decision to do something, however small, that might just help someone else. I spent a long time assisting a few people early last year with everything from travel advice to logistics, and even travel funds, and a couple of them complained so much that I think I went into shock for a short while. But so many people in our family and in our social circle are quietly generous souls that it rubs off, and you realise how important it is to be kind rather than critical, and to be caring rather than castigatory. After a while, you realise there's no other way to live your life.

If you haven't yet seen this lovely doco on Tara Winkler, you can watch it here. Full episode – Tara Or there's a trailer here: Australian Story - Tara

We'll be moving to a new website shortly, so this and my email will be transferred over, and there may be glitches with the new site and the old/new email. I hope you'll bear with us in the meantime.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

April in Paris

Some destinations are sublimely beautiful in April. New York City with its abundance of cherry blossoms is one. England, with its magnificent gardens, is another. 

But perhaps one of the prettiest place to spend an April afternoon is Paris. 

Paris in April is pure magic. It's a cinematic sweep of postcard-style streets, overflowing florists, cheerful shopkeepers and charming maître ds, scented parks and gardens, exquisite window merchandising, elegant exhibitions and altogether entertaining street scenes.

April is also one of the best times of the year to travel to Paris—and many other places, for that matter. recently revealed that the cheapest week to travel is the last week of April and the first week of May. 

I tested the claim last night. Sure enough, return flights from Sydney to either New York or Paris that are normally A$1700—$2000 are just $1350. 

Oh April, you really know how to tempt us.

Here in Australia, my publisher and I have been working on ideas for a new book. It's about—you guessed it—Paris. I had planned to go to NY for work this month but now it looks like I may have the take the long (and scenic) way around the globe. Who can resist a chance to photograph Paris in spring?

I hope to show you some beautiful new 'finds' from the City of Light, from secret fashion museums and ateliers to gorgeous stores and hotels and even delightful walking trails that take in the best bits of this photogenic city. 

Some people abhor Paris (including my partner). And I must admit that every time I return I think: perhaps we should try a difference place next year? And then I find myself going back, yet again. Paris will do that too you. Almost 30 years after my first visit, some things haven't changed. My French is still shameful, but my love for the city hasn't waned.

On this note, I want to thank everyone who kindly bought Paris: A Guide to the City's Creative Heart. We've just learned that it recently hit the No. 1 Ranking on US Amazon for Illustrated Travel books. 

Actually I can't quite remember the category: it was a niche one, so it's not a big deal, but we were still very surprised—and grateful for the No. 1 ranking.  I'm deeply grateful to everyone who bought a copy. Book buyers are the loveliest people.

I also want to recommend some other Paris books. Nichole Robertson's Paris in Colour is delightful if you want some photographic inspiration, while the new book The Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World's Grandest Garden by Alain Baraton is a superb read if you love gardens. 

Another I've recently bought is A Day at Versailles by Yves Carlier; a sumptuous behind-the-scenes look at the inner-workings of this grand estate. 

And Edmund White's new memoir, Inside A Pearl: My Years in Paris is... well, I had mixed feelings about the name-dropping and cruel characterisations, but there's no doubt he's a brilliant writer. And when he admitted he also struggled with the French language, well, it was a sign he's as human like the rest of us... It's an evocative book that beautifully sums up Paris in a way I could never do.

Au revoir for now. And once again, a sincere thank you.

[All photographs by me.]
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