Being stuck in cattle class no longer means being shut out of the lounge. Many airlines, particularly in the US, are allowing travellers to buy day-passes for their lounges. American, United and US Airways offer $55 passes that allow full access to their priority-passenger areas. Plenty of independent lounges are cropping up as well: American Express is rolling out its Centurion lounges free to Platinum and Centurion cardholders, $55 for all other AmEx members; Hong Kong-based Plaza Premium Lounge has lounges in 27 locations worldwide offering everything from cocktails to napping beds for fees ranging from $57 for two hours to $82 for five hours; and Executive Lounges by Servisair provides upscale lounges in 44 countries for about $456 a year (bonus: you get to bring a guest). Priority Pass, meanwhile, offers guests access to more than 600 lounges worldwide for an annual fee of about $110, plus an entry fee of about $30.
Hotel Escondido turns the bare essentials into an art form. The latest Mexican refuge from Grupo Habita occupies an otherwise empty beach, almost 400 kilometres south of congested Acapulco. (What a difference that distance makes.) Each of the 16 palm-thatched casitas has a plunge pool and hammock in full view of the Pacific. Sandy paths lead through a cactus garden to the restaurant and lounge, where a bartender named Juan is the master of mezcal-and-mango Margaritas. Catch of the day lands in handmade tortillas; Mexico's surf mecca is a quick hop down the road. And the occasional migrating grey whale breaches offshore at sunset.
Every sub-Saharan aficionado knows you don't monkey around with the traditional safari - a beloved formula of wide-open savannas, game drives and the Big Five - but a few safari operators have gone bananas with primate trekking. Along with gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda - already popular with intrepid travellers - there's the chance to get close to chimpanzees. Africa expert Micato Safaris offers a "Primates in Paradise" four-day adventure by foot into the enchanted forests of the Mahale Mountains in Tanzania's remote west to encounter troupes of chimps in their natural habitat.
Fermented, salted, aged and sliced on the Berkel, but created from vegetables, not animal flesh? Brisbane's Ben Williamson says heck yes. He's been experimenting with vegan charcuterie for Gerard's Bar, a tasty new adjunct to Fortitude Valley's Gerard's Bistro. "The method is a mix of fermentation and salt baking,'' he explains. "Salt-baking provides the firmness, texture and flavour." Beetroot, parsnip and carrot are fermented, dehydrated then salt-baked to absorb any remaining moisture and to infuse more flavour. The result? "It has the same texture as jamón."
Arguably the world's most sophisticated resort operator, Aman continues its bid for world domination with new resorts confirmed for Lijiang and Jordan and rumoured for the Dominican Republic, Gabon, Tokyo and Portugal.
The Morgans Hotel Group, known in the US for stylish design, is opening its first European Mondrian hotel in a prime Thames-side site in June. The south wing of an imposing 1970s office block has been returned to its originally intended use as a grand hotel, redesigned by Tom Dixon, with a vast lobby bar and 359 guest rooms on 14 floors. Its location is a perfect mid-point between the arts hub of the Southbank Centre on one side, and the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre on the other. Sea Containers House, 20 Upper Ground, London.
Some of our best bar owners are having a crack at making their own wine with delicious results. Travis Tausend of Adelaide's Cork Wine Café is a couple of vintages into his own spicy, earthy grenache; Aidan Raftery's Vin du Patron at East Melbourne's Persillade is one of the best pinots we've tried this year.
"The health benefits of Kakadu plums are off the chain," says Orana chef Jock Zonfrillo. "It's a natural immune-system booster, from antibacterial, antiviral qualities to anti-carcinogenic effect, and wild-harvested fruit contains 5000mg of vitamin C per 100gm of fruit, which is about 50 times more than oranges - but putting my chef's hat on, it's got an appealing mild acidity something like cooked citrus, or Granny Smith apple, and it's also a tenderising agent, great for marinades. Bang: what else would you put in your smoothie?"
The Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi finds beauty in imperfection, value in age and accepts decay is natural. Sure, luxe designers are comfortable with patina, but we say they've only scratched the surface. Get thee to Melrose, in South Australia's Flinders Ranges and bed down in converted trucks behind the North Star Hotel. Hole up in Austria's drainpipe hotels. And bravo, the recycled Boeing 727 suite in Costa Rica!
The green wine thing's getting serious Down Under: newly certified organic star vineyards include Grosset and Mount Horrocks in Clare and Pewsey Vale Contours in Eden Valley - and Torbreck is about to convert one top Barossa site to biodynamics. If this keeps up, most of our top wines will soon be glowing green.
The rich are different from you and me - they can spend silly money on hotel rooms. Or so the recent rash of extravagant suites pitched at the jetsetting one per cent would suggest. Take the Royal Etihad Suite at Abu Dhabi's Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, a four-bedroom, six-bathroom mini-palace that occupies the entire 60th floor, with 360-degree views of the Corniche, Arabian Gulf and the metropolis - yours for a cool $19,900 a night. Then there's the three-storey Jewel Suite by Martin Katz at the New York Palace, which features a private lift, a two-storey-high "cascading crystal" chandelier and crystal jewel boxes holding glittering creations by the suite's namesake jeweller. The price? $27,600. Prefer to spend your 27 grand on digs in the City of Light? Try the two Royal Suites at the legendary Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris: both have private terraces overlooking the lovely Art Deco fountain of the Three Graces and marble bathrooms with steam rooms, saunas and Marie Antoinette-worthy walk-in dressing rooms. But you haven't seen OTT until you've seen the Presidential Suite at The Raj Palace Hotel in Jaipur, India, a former Maharaja's four-storey dwelling. Spanning 1,500 square metres, there's everything from a private roof terrace and swimming pool with panoramic views of the pink city to a private museum, library, banquet hall and bar. Recline on furniture made of silver while admiring rooms swathed in intricate stucco work, mirror and gold leaf. Only $49,700 a night.
In konbu butter the building blocks of Western and Eastern deliciousness (fat and umami, respectively) meet in a dangerously versatile mixture; the version seen at Rockpool, whether melted over the potatoes dauphine, or on its superb chicken wings, is savoury sublimity itself.
Pioneered in Melbourne by Bar Americano, the standing room-only café concept is spreading across the (inner) city with impressively wired speed. With an emphasis on good, meticulously sourced coffee made by people with great Melbourne coffee lineage (Seven Seeds, Proud Mary and Market Lane tend to crop up a lot) rather than on food, it could be that places like Patricia, Standing Room, Sbriga, Traveller, Dukes and Counter are showing that coffee culture can now truly be said to be a different beast to café culture.
Ever since curating became the sexy thing to do, a host of hip names have become virtual gallerists of their own style - among them Balenciaga's Alexander Wang, whose eponymous line-up now includes a signature collection of edited black-on-black "objects" such as this travelling eye mask. Alexander Wang leather eyemask with pouch, $103. +1 212 532 3103
What a difference a decade or two makes. Back in the 1990s Mozambique was a basket-case African country emerging from 15years of civil war. Now this Indian Ocean nation is the exotic beach destination of choice for switched-on sunlovers. New arrivals on the Lagoon Coast include the 22-stilted suites of White Pearl Ponta Mamoli, 100km south of the capital, Maputo. Besides plunge pools and private beach, the resort is handy to dolphins, humpback whales, turtles and the Maputo Elephant Reserve. Its private airstrip should open late this year. Meanwhile, African lodge supremos andBeyond have taken over Benguerra Island Lodge, a 31-guest coral reef resort in the Bazaruto Archipelago. Among its guest experiences are dhow cruises with local fishermen and a jungly national park on the doorstep.
After watching neighbouring Mount Lawley hit the big time, the inner-city Perth suburb of Maylands is finally getting its chance to shine. Smoult's Continental Deli, Mrs. S and Sherbet continue to bring traffic to the area, and recent additions like French small bar Swallow, artisan butcher Hampshire on Eighth and Saturday night food markets are also playing their parts in reviving the 6051.
Prancing Pony, from Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills, is the boutique brewery whose bottles South Australia's diners and burger outlets are flocking to stock. The hook is that its amber, blonde and pale ales are brewed over an open fire rather than via a steam jacket, which results in complex caramel and toffee flavours in the beers, with a rich malt profile.
Philippe Starck has landed in Bali. The French designer is working on The Stairs, a villa-hotel hybrid on Seminyak's teeming Petitenget strip, which will feature 12 villas and a look-at-me public space with restaurants, bars, spa, gym, library and, being French, pâtisserie. Doors are due to open early next year.
Two years on and the long-awaited Sydney lodgings from Singapore's hippest hotelier still don't have a name. In fact, much remains unclear about Loh Lik Peng's Broadway début, but his track record suggests it'll be worth waiting for. The Irish-born entrepreneur pioneered hip hotels in Singapore (New Majestic, Wanderlust) before branching out to London (Town Hall Hotel) and Shanghai (The Waterhouse). He has a reputation for turning unloved areas into must-visit venues - in this case, making over former student dive The Clare Hotel at Broadway as part of the $2 billion Carlton & United Brewery redevelopment. Project Peng will be a 60-room hotel with three restaurants - one of them conceived by his Brit-chef pal Jason Atherton (Pollen Street Social) - and a "quite sexy, quite special" rooftop pool. Room interiors will channel the legacy of the pub and brewery. "Not a beer-themed hotel, but industrial," Loh says with a laugh. "I think it will be a very interesting project. It's not something we've done anywhere else." One-time pub patrons will be glad to hear the Clare's tiled bar will remain. "It's a very iconic bar because anyone who ever studied at UTS or Sydney uni remembers that pub," he says. Prepare to raise glasses in February 2015.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi have had their flash-in-the-sand moments. Now it's the turn of neighbouring Oman, the desert sultanate with more culture in its capital Muscat than all the UAE combined. Besides its Arabian Nights landscapes and some of the most hospitable Arabs on Earth, the Musandam Peninsula is gaining a reputation for adventure tourism, dhow cruising, untouched oases and unique lodgings. The latest standout address is the new Alila Jabal Akhdar, a glamorous redoubt in the Al Hajar mountains.
Taking some of the package out of its European tours, Trafalgar's savvy "Be My Guest" program has travellers lunching with families who own local wineries and farms. Five-star resorts are also realising that guests occasionally like to get real; the Shanti Maurice in Mauritius, for example, encourages its guests to break bread with grandma in her home.
Oranges, lemons, limes and pomegranates beware: the Ra Chand juicer, that Mexican cult kitchen lust object, now has local distribution in Australia. All the juice, none of the washing up.
They're calling it Nueva Colombia, the new-look Latin nation that has (mostly) shed its drug-addled past and now enjoys political stability, lower crime rates and the attention of intrepid travellers keen to uncover the Next Big Thing. Its high-altitude capital Bogotá combines the pleasures of gastronomy with the joys of exploring gentrified barrios such as Usaquén - hence the growing comparisons between Bogotá and Buenos Aires. Not BA as it is today, but as it was in the formative years after the financial collapse of 2001: resourceful, edgy, determined and endlessly surprising.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels group makes its long-awaited Paris début in August when The Peninsula opens its gilt-edged doors on Avenue Kléber. After six years of arduous restoration, involving untold volumes of marble, stucco and gold leaf, the former Hotel Majestic will emerge as a 200-room palace fit for the most discerning Paris visitors. Among its rather spectacular amenities are a terrace shaded by Avenue Kléber's plane trees, a rooftop restaurant with 360-degree views of the City of Light and the historic Le Bar, where Kissinger signed the Vietnam Peace Accords in 1973. Five of the hotel's 45 suites have their own gardens atop the seven-storey Belle Époque landmark. The Peninsula will also channel its oriental roots at Li Li, the signature haute chinoise Cantonese restaurant. The Paris property will feature the usual inspired Pen accoutrements - the fleet of Rolls Royces, elaborate afternoon teas, valet boxes and leading-edge in-room technology. Naturellement, for a property of this calibre, the Peninsula is located in the 16th arrondissement.