How Perth got cool: article for Rough Guides

I’ve been visiting Perth for many years and, yes, it did used to live up to its Dullsville name.

But not any more. On my most recent visit to Perth I found a hip city shaking off its early-to-bed past and emerging as a city break destination to rival any other in Australia.

My article for Rough Guides introduces the new Perth, one of hip bars, cool restaurants and luxury hotels.

You can also find out more about Perth here.


15 prettiest places in Spain: piece for DK Travel

Spain is gorgeous. From its costas to its mountains and from the verdant north to the sun-soaked south, there are just so many beautiful places to visit.

I’ve travelled around Spain extensively and still find new corners to explore every time. So when DK Travel asked me to compile a list of my top 15 prettiest places it took me plenty of editing and agonising to decide what to leave out.

What remains are 15 gorgeous places, rural and urban, on and off the beaten track – and even as far afield as the Canary Islands. Let me know if I’ve missed your favourite!


20 best hotels in Andalusia: lead feature in the Times

My very first trip abroad was a school trip to Spain and ever since then I’ve been somewhat obsessed with my favourite European country, returning multiple times each year.

One of my favourite regions is Andalusia, the land of sunshine, orange trees and Moorish architecture as well as some fabulous beaches and plenty of gorgeous places to stay.

I rounded up some of my favourites for the Times. Check out my 20 favourite hotels in Andalusia.


Gap year adventures: Australia: for the Sunday Times

With A level results now out it’s time to decide – what next?

If you’re planning on the next big thing to be a big trip, the Sunday Times has you covered.

Check out today’s paper for gap year guides to Southeast Asia, the USA, South America India and Australia. I wrote the guide to Australia, recommending my favourite party hotspots, the best places to chill out and of course, what not to miss.

You can also read these gap year guides on the Sunday Times website.


Swimming with humpback whales: piece for the Times

On August 1st 2016 for the first time people were allowed to swim with the world’s largest migration of humpback whales, off the coast of Western Australia.

I joined the very first group to head out from Sal Salis near Exmouth, with Murray on his boat Wave Rider. But finding a whale that was moving slowly enough, without a calf, and in the right place, turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined.

We swam with whalesharks, watched humpbacks breaching and diving just a few metres from the boat and soaked up the ‘winter’ sunshine (25 degrees) – but there was no humpback whale swim before lunch.

Fortunately in the afternoon our luck changed and finally, after much trial and error, we shared the water with a humpback whale. It was incredible.

Read more about my experience in my article for The Times.

Photo courtesy of Jana of Soul and Sea Photography.

Sydney harbour

Sydney’s best bars – and how to beat the lockout laws

Sydney’s infamous lockout laws have been dubbed a “sledgehammer” – to the city’s nightlife, that is. Across town bars have closed, pubs stand empty and dust settles in thick carpets on ex-dancefloors. You can even watch a video of these ghosts, set to haunting music – that’s how sad the decline of Sydney’s nightlife is.

Or is it? Yes, the city has lost such big names as The Flinders Hotel, Soho and Bar Century and once vibrant Kings Cross is but a shadow of its former self, but there are still plenty of bars pouring the pints and shaking the cocktails into the wee hours. Small bars (with a capacity of less than 60 people) are exempt for a start, as are bars and nightclubs outside the lockout zone, which only runs as far south as Central station from the CBD and therefore does not affect Sydney’s latest nightlife hotspot, Newtown.

But now that many big names have closed and Sydneysiders have resigned themselves to more nights at home or at private parties, it does take a little more local knowledge to find a bar with some life in it.

On my most recent trip to Sydney I spent many a night pounding the pavements and propping up the bars in the name of, erm, research. I found plenty of drinking dens open late and lots of chic small bars with a lively crowd looking to sink a few in spite of the new rules. My pick of the best is below, and you can find more of my recommendations on the Pearlshare app, in my guide to Sydney’s best bars.


  1. 121BC

Italian-owned and Italian to the core, this tucked away wine bar is the place in Sydney to come for wines from the world’s greatest wine producing country. Bottles are stacked ceiling-high in the so-called “bottle shop” to the left of the bar – where you’ll perch to wait for a seat at the table if there’s a queue. Drinkers sit around on large wooden table beneath a chandelier of bright bulbs and staff will help you choose a glass from the list chalked up on the wall.


  1. Earl’s Juke Joint

This lively Newtown bar likes to think of itself as a shot of New Orleans in Sydney and it doesn’t do a bad job of channelling the Deep South vibe. The décor is all dark wood and exposed brick, the bartenders wear braces and the lighting is down and dirty – plus you’ll enter through a fake butchershop façade that gives the whole place a speakeasy-style vibe. Try the Hobo Julep, a heady concoction of bourbon, sugar syrup and mint bitters – and don’t make too many plans for tomorrow.


  1. The Old Clare

The Old Clare might be Sydney’s hippest new hotel but it still has a welcoming pub-style bar on its ground floor. Once a sticky floored pub that could only be called a boozer, the Clare today is a chic spot that blends vintage tiled floors and mid-century modern furniture with a contemporary style and on point drinks list – running the gamut from local craft beers on draft to Aussie wines served by both the bottle and glass.


  1. The Rook

Lobsters, burgers and liquor, what more could you want? A trendy rooftop spot perhaps, with peekaboo views of the cityscape and knowledgeable bar staff who know not to serve certain gins with tonic for fear of ruining them? Those gins number 80 or so and there are plenty of cocktails too – try Pablo’s Garland, a potent combo of gin, liqueur honey, absinthe and citrus. That’ll get the night started. Hit R in the lift at ground level to get up here – and yes, it is in that nondescript looking office building.


  1. 10 William Street

This diminutive wine bar in chi chi Paddington chalks up its wines on a blackboard on the wall. It’s a head-spinning list, with plenty of unusual varieties from the Old World of European wines, so it’s best to ask for help with a recommendation. Staff are the friendly sort who will pull up a chair for a quick chat about what you want to order and really know their stuff.


Download the Pearlshare app for iPhone here.

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Sun, sea and sushi: why the Canaries are the new foodie hotspot

When it comes to the Canaries, misconceptions abound. Isn’t it all high-rise hotels and all-day breakfasts?

Well, no. There is so much more to these Atlantic islands than their “Brits abroad” reputation – a reputation that is, in my opinion, extremely unfair.

Because Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote in particular have exciting, diverse and high quality food scenes. Here you’ll find Michelin starred restaurants, local produce from fresh seafood to the juiciest tomatoes you’ll ever taste, and some of Europe’s best – but least widely exported – wines.

I visit the Canaries several times each year and on my last visit I set out on a gourmet odyssey around Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote for The Times.

Travel writer, editor and broadcaster