Explore My World Passionate Traveller Blog


Bring On Marriage Equality, it’s Good for Business


As a naturalised Australian from the Philippines, I have always been proud of Australia’s role as an early pioneer and leader in LGBTI rights. All the more reason why I have become increasingly dumbfounded, and deeply disappointed, in how this country is still lagging behind 23 other countries of the world with regards to the introduction of Marriage Equality. 

For one moment, let’s push aside the fact that a plebiscite is totally unnecessary, that Parliament already has the power to legislate on the Marriage Equality issue... 

... or that 72 per cent of the public already supports Marriage Equality, a percentage higher than many countries with Marriage Equality...

... not to mention the fact that the fundamental human rights principle of equality states that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity....

... and that banning same-sex marriage is a form of social exclusion that adds yet another layer of stress and marginalisation to the LGBTI group....

Let us push all those human rights factors aside, because our government clearly has. What our politicos may prefer to focus on instead are the ‘hip pocket’ benefits that Marriage Equality will bring to this country.

According to AustralianMarriageEquality.org, Marriage Equality in Australia stands to inject more than $700m into the national economy through expenditure on weddings. For those who need more convincing, the figures that same-sex weddings has already generated in other parts of the world speak for themselves:

$111 million - The amount contributed to the Massachusetts economy over five years by Marriage Equality 

$684 million and 2,200 jobs - The estimated economic benefit to California from Marriage Equality 

$1.2 million - The projected increase in government revenue from Marriage Equality in Rhode Island 

$7 million - The increased revenue state governments will receive from same-sex marriage license fees 

300 - Number of businesses supporting same-sex marriages in Argentina 

Mario Paez, President of Gay and Lesbian Tourism Australia (GALTA), the peak tourism body for LGBTI travellers, says, “We know many same-sex couples who could wait no longer, and took advantage of the equal marriage laws in New Zealand and beyond, much to the detriment of the Australian tourism sector.” 

“We expect that when the Australian Marriage Act is finally changed to include same-sex couples, a huge benefit in tourism spend on Australian destination weddings and honeymoons will be witnessed and celebrated.”

"We expect that changes to the Marriage Act will reposition Australia in a favourable view to LGBTI travellers and honeymooners both from within Australia and around the globe.”

As for me, I’m tired of seeing the string of fabulous same sex weddings in other countries on Facebook and wondering how much Australian laws on Marriage Equality are costing our same sex couples in terms of their happiness and peace of mind, let alone the loss of revenue for our tourism industry. 

I say: Bring on Marriage Equality, the people have already spoken.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 16th August, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions
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NZ Wellness Retreat Urges: ‘Move to Live, Live to Move’



Te Atawhai Get Ready for Summer special
Co-Founder and spokeswoman for Te Atawhai Wellness Retreat, Annah Stretton supports the results of a study conducted at the University of Oxford that concludes that a sedentary lifestyle and inactivity plays an equally major role in obesity as poor food choices. 

Did you find the first paragraph of this blog confronting? Personally, I was hardly surprised by the conclusions of this research - that “low levels of physical activity are associated with an increased risk of weight gain and obesity." In fact, it is precisely for this reason I have developed a passion for walking holidays. Click here to check out some of the most spectacular treks right here in my home town of NSW.

Backtracking to the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, NZ CEO Annah Stretton had this to say, “The drastic decrease in movement has become a great contributor to many of our modern day diseases: cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression…. the list goes on. The sad fact is that we are only too quick to seek medical intervention as a way to combat these conditions and choose to ignore what we already know, that we just need to move more.”  

Along with Rebecca Skilton and Sherryll Gordon, Annah Stretton co-founded Wellness Retreat Te Atawhai at the foothills of majestic Mount Te Aroha as a challenge to traditional ‘quick fix’ wellness approaches by introducing a series of bespoke experiences and simple daily practices that reap lasting benefits. 

An advocate of going back to basics as the key to robust health, Te Atawhai’s three Founders hold a passionate belief that movement is the key to good health: it lifts the heart rate, pumps more oxygen through the blood, feeds the muscles, and activates the release of endorphins. 

Annah recommends activities that will keep us moving throughout the day: 
* Use the stairs rather than lifts or escalators , 
* Take the basket option at the supermarket , 
* Purchase a standing desk, 
* Ensure that your water bottle is at a distance that forces you to stand up and drink every 15 minutes . 
Weight bearing exercises, such as Pilates, yoga and weights, are vital for the maintenance of strong healthy bones.

In a bid to get people up and moving, Annah, Rebecca and and Sherryll have launched a special “Get Ready for Summer” package. Normally valued at NZ$2700, Te Atawhai's 4-day Wellness Experience is now being offered at NZ$1900 if bookings are made by the end of August.

As a last word, Annah says, “Movement is what our bodies were made to do. It’s important to move a little more so that we can live and love life a little more, a life where we will feel better, think better, be better.” 

I couldn't agree more, Annah, and the best news is that it is never too late to start. 
Why don't you take advantage of Te Atawhai's special rate for their life-changing 'Get Ready for Summer' 4-day Wellness Retreat? Take it from me, you'll never look back!

About Te Atawhai:
Founded by Annah Stretton, Rebecca Skilton and Sherryll Gordon, Te Atawhai is a holistic health and wellness retreat located at the foot of the majestic Mount Te Aroha, a region famous for its breathtaking flora and fauna, its vast array of mountain walking tracks, and for the healing properties of its hot springs. 
Te Atawhai’s four-day wholeness retreat has been carefully designed to reset the modern day living rhythms in a way that brings about lasting change to their guests’ health, vitality and zest for life. They help to create a new sense of awareness and mindfulness around nutrition, movement and mind management. 

4-Day Wellness Experience: 
Now NZ$1900 if bookings made and paid for by end August 2017 (Normally NZD $2,700).
Price includes: all taxes, accommodation, meals and all activities
Price excludes: flights, transfers and personal insurance
Website: http://teatawhai.co.nz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeAtawahi/
Instagram: @te_atawhai
Contact Details: FOR ALL ENQUIRIES - Please contact Victoria Ugarte on 
+61 411502421 or victoria@TeAtawhai.com

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 8th August, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions, New Zealand
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Vive la France



Unleashing my inner Francophile on Bastille Day
At roughly this time every year, France’s scent lingers on in my mind’s eye will all the complexities of an exquisite perfume... 

Nearly 3 years ago to this day, just after Bastille Day, Peter and I sauntered up and down the impressive Promenade des Anglais in Nice, sharing the pavement with joggers, rollerbladers and stylish assorted locals with pampered pets. Last year, their national holiday became the anniversary of a terrorist attack that France mourns, when a truck plowed into a crowd along Nice's popular beach-side promenade where revelers had gathered to celebrate their national day. 

Out of respect for a beautiful nation and its spirited resilient people, I allow myself to unleash my inner Francophile this time every year and expound the virtues of France: 

Starting with Paris, I learned that the myth of Parisians being arrogant is exactly that - a myth. In fact, we found Parisians to be helpful and polite, going out of their way to give us helpful tips and assistance, many times without having to ask for it. With 20 arrondissements to sift through and each district adding its own unique flavour and culture, the saying of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts truly applies to the ‘City of Light’.

In a delicious contrast to Paris, the Alsace countryside in Springtime is a symphony of greens, punctuated by lakes and the occasional castle, with hundreds of acres of vineyards spread wide over a sweeping landscape. Our experience was further enhanced by a very special B&B, a charming converted farmhouse s ituated in the mountains above the tiny village of Freland, just off the famous Routes des Vins. You can take a peek at La Haute Grange in a YouTube video here.

Few places beat the romance of St Paul de Vence, in France’s south. Sitting majestically above the hustle and bustle of the Cote D’Azur coastline, St Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera and a haven for artists and celebrities since the 1960s. I was so taken by this part of the world that I was moved to make another short video of our stay.

In a region renown for white wild horses, black bulls and pink flamingoes, worlds seemingly collided in a whirlwind of dance, music and colour at the heart of the Camargue, at Saintes Maries de la Mer, during the Romany Gypsies’ annual festival commemorating “Black Sarah”. 

Scaling the heights of the Pyrenees at 2877 meters is an experience that I will never forget. After a one and a half hour drive from Haute Garonne towards the Pyrenees, we took a cable car from the ski town of La Mongie to Pic du Midi.  With a breathtaking panorama of 300 kilometers from every angle, this is said to be one of the most magical views in the world. 

After shaking off its monarchial shackles, France declared itself to be an "indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic”. All the more surprising her choice of current President Emmanuel Macron based on his liberal economic and political leanings. In fact, the very word ‘liberalism’ remains an anathema in French intellectual life. Through France’s choice of Macron, however, she expressed a resolute refusal to accept the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, and fear-mongering of the Front Nationals. For this reason alone I raise my voice in respect and say “Vive la France”. Long may you flourish. I look forward to exploring more of your magnificent lands and charming culture in the years to come.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 23rd July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: France, Opinions
Tags: France

The Virtues of Walking Holidays in the Winter (NSW)



Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins (NSW)
While many Aussie travelers choose to chase the European sun during the Southern Hemisphere's Winter months, I've always chosen to stay put in my own home state of NSW. 

Apart from all the benefits of a walking holiday - it's economical, great for the health and naturally spectacular - NSW happens to be home to some of Australia’s most scenic walking trails. Incidentally, I'm not letting you in on any secret.... More than 4.3 million domestic and international overnight visitors last year choose to hike in NSW as part of a holiday experience, up 5.2 per cent on the previous year.

Whether you're after short treks, long day hikes or more challenging multi-day hikes, there are a plethora of hidden gems along NSW's stunning coastal and inland trails. Here are some of NSW’s great walks, as well as some hidden gems just waiting to be explored:
New tours: 
  • The Seven Peaks Walk is one of the newest walks to join the list of  Great Walks of Australia . This challenging hike on Lord Howe Island is for experienced hikers, with a few sections of the walk off-track and requiring a steady head for heights.
  • For a coastal trek, try the three-day  Light to Light walk  which hugs the coastline between Boyds Tower and Green Cape Lightstation in Ben Boyd National Park on the Sapphire Coast. If hiking in luxury is more your style,  Light to Light Camps  can carry your gear, set up camp each night and cook your dinner, all while you enjoy the walk at your leisure.



Seven Peaks Walk (NSW)
Secluded and unspoilt: 
  •  Explore the secluded beaches and spectacular cliffs while hiking the rugged coastline of the  Kangarutha Walking Track  in Bournda National Park near Tathra on the South Coast. Suitable for most ages, this moderately challenging hike is 9km each way.
  • The  Murray Valley Regional and National Park s, near Mathoura on the Murray River, are home to part of the world’s largest stand of River Red Gums. The short walks in and around this park take you through stunning red gums and to an impressive Ramsar-listed wetlands,  Reed Beds Wetland .
  • Part of the  Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area ,  Washpool National Park , between Grafton and Glen Innes, offers wonderful undisturbed wilderness including the world’s largest stand of coachwood trees. With walks ranging from just a few hours to multiple days, the 45km  Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage walk  is the most challenging. This four-day walk takes you through eucalypt forests, rainforests, wetlands and granite tors in the rugged Northern Tablelands.
Song-lines and cultural tales:
  • Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Awareness  runs a two-day tour that includes climbing Mount Gulaga, an extinct volcano rising 797 metres above sea level near Narooma on the South Coast.  Mount Gulaga  is culturally significant to the local Yuin people, particularly women.
  • Tri State Safaris  offers guided tours of Mutawintji National Park and through the  Mutawintji Historic Site . Boasting one of the best collections of Aboriginal art in NSW, a challenging two to four hour guided walk through rocky terrain visits Aboriginal rock engravings and ochre stencils, as well as the remains of fireplaces, stone flakes and grinding stones.
Close to Sydney, but feels like a million miles away:


Thunderbolts Lookout (NSW)
Epic adventures:
  • Stretching 426kms, The  Hume and Hovell Track  is an epic trail in the south east of NSW that traverses rugged and beautiful countryside following a mix of public roads, fire trails, purpose built single tracks and over 100 footbridges. For trip planning, check out the interactive map and photos showing 360 degree views of the campsites along the way on the  Hume and Hovell Track website .
  • Snow shoe Australia’s highest peak with K7 Adventures on the  Mount Kosciuszko Majestic Tour . Kosciuszko National Park is as compelling in the winter months as it is during the summer wildflower season and although the weather can be challenging, the experience is truly remarkable.
For more information visit  www.visitnsw.com

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 12th July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Australia
Tags: NSW, Walking holidays

Jet-setting Australians plagued by travel sickness



Dr Bernard Hudson and Adam Liaw shine the light on the health risks associated with travel.
I didn’t think twice before accepting an invitation for the “Travel Together Event” on 29 June, at the chic harbourside hotel, Ovolo, Woolloomooloo . 

Hosted by Masterchef Adam Liaw of Destination Flavour fame, on behalf of Sanofi Pasteur, the aim of the event was to shine the light on the potential health risks that continually lurk behind the shadows of international travel. A subject that is close to my heart, I joined a throng of fellow globetrotters at the hotel’s Piper Room which was set up  to look like an exotic marketplace. Ambling from stall to stall, we relaxed into a travel vibe as we savoured the various delicacies from across the world, listening to the laid back strains of a Jamaican beat.

After settling into the colour and spectacle, Sydney Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr Bernard Hudson joined Adam Liaw in presenting the more serious side of traveling the world, that of Australian travellers losing precious holiday time because they’re not aware of the health risks associated with travel. 

Here are some confronting facts (according to research conducted by Sanofi Pasteur):

* Travellers who fell sick on their last trip to an ‘at-risk’ destination spent about one-third (31%) of their holiday bedridden or unwell. 

* While Aussies are travelling to ‘at-risk’ destinations - South East Asia, South and Central America, Africa and the Middle East - in record numbers, research shows that many (42%) aren’t getting health advice that could protect them against serious travel-related diseases. These diseases include hepatitis A, rabies, typhoid fever and yellow fever, which have the potential to ruin holidays and leave  people with long term symptoms.

Back to the “Travel Together Event”, Dr Hudson stressed the importance of getting the right health advice at least six weeks prior to travel. He said, “Holidaymakers who prioritise itineraries over their own health are putting themselves and potentially those around them at risk, especially if they’re visiting high risk destinations.” 

“The reality is, no one wants to be bedridden on holiday, have to take time off work when they return or spread a travel-related disease to their loved ones. It doesn’t take much to get the right health advice before you take off.” 

Dr Hudson said in closing, “Depending on your destination you may need medication, vaccinations or other advice. Make it a top priority, just as you would your plane tickets and insurance.” 

I couldn’t agree with Dr Hudson more...While I’m a firm believer in the rewards of the journey far outweighing the risk of leaving our shores, one must also consider the realities of ‘at-risk’ destinations and plan for the worst case scenarios. After all, a successful travel experience depends equally on the preparation that we make ahead of the trip as well as the precautions we take while on our journey. 

Click here for more Travel Health information:

* Travel Health Fact Sheet by Sanofi Pasteur

* Information on Travel Insurance & Pre-existing Conditions

* Information on travel health & vaccinations: www.vaccinehub.com.au & www.smartraveller.gov.au 

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 7th July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Travel Tips
Tags: Ovolo, Sanofi Pasteur, Dr Bernard Hudson, Destination Flavour, Adam Liaw

The Perfect Travel Pant: #ImsoOKayla



Ready to travel in my new Okayla high waist joggers.
Have you ever thought how hard it is to find the perfect travel pant? Tights are for workout junkies, trackies should be confined to in-home use only, and jeans are not only heavy and take forever to dry when wet, they pinch you in all the wrong places on a long flight. 

As a world traveller for 3 decades, I take my travel wardrobe very seriously. Every item of clothing needs to earn its place in the comfort and styling stakes as well as in the suitcase. After searching for that elusive piece of clothing that effortlessly combines ease and chic, I found online gold in OKAYLA’s “high waist jogger”. Eureka! Placing my order from Australia, it arrived in the post from Britain less than a week later.

Okayla’s super-soft cotton/spandex high-waisted pant, with wide elastic waistband and slim tapered leg, not only flatters most figure types but feel incredibly comfortable on the body. Passing the wash-and-wear test with flying colours, they took up minimum space in my suitcase when rolled or folded. Impressed with my purchase, I ventured to find out a little more about the person behind the label.


Samantha Crutchlow, Founder and Designer of Okayla (UK)
Okayla (the label) was founded by Samantha Crutchlow in 2016 and represents the union between East and West.  Based in Leicester (UK),  Samantha spent 10 years designing ladies wear for high street retailers in Britain, then re-located to Hong Kong for 3 years to further her experience with Far Eastern manufacturing. Ever inspired by the styling and layering in Asia, particularly Japan and Korea,  Samantha launched Okayla on her return to Britain from Hong Kong. 

“The link between my British roots and my love of Asia felt like the natural starting point for the brand,” says Samantha. After toying between several names for the brand, Samantha decided on “Okayla” as the brand name, a casual and fun phrase spoken by both the locals and westerners around Hong Kong that captures the essence of the brand.

Thanks to her profession, Samantha has had plenty of opportunities to explore Europe, America and Asia. Yet despite having travelled the world, it was in Leicester, the city of her birth, where she decided to settle, reminding me of a classic travel quote by Chinese writer Lin Yutang: “No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”

Check out Okayla’s  Sports Luxe Casual Wear Collection  by clicking here.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 6th July, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Travel Tips
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Midweek Magic in Mudgee (NSW)



Private wine tasting at Rosby Winery & Guesthouse
April was a tough month on a personal front. Some months are like that. By the time the end of the month was in sight, we were hanging out for our 3-night stay in Mudgee. With a mutual aversion for weekend crowds, we opted for a midweek stay.

“What’s there to do in Mudgee,” Peter asked. “Is it just wineries and food?”

With Peter’s blood sugar levels just a smidgin over the benchmark, an orgy of wine tasting was clearly not on the cards for us. As for the food scene... 

“Peter, did I tell you that two of Mudgee’s best restaurants - Pipeclay Pumphouse and The Zin House - will be closed when we’re there? They’re only open from Thursday to Sunday.” I then added, “Alby & Esthers’ menu looks great but I’ve been told they’re under renovation due to storm damage.” 

Following a thunderous expletive, Peter said, “Should we just cancel Mudgee and go to the south coast instead?” 

Quickly coming to Mudgee’s defense, I showed Peter the Home Page of where I planned on booking our 3-night stay, a self-contained studio in the midst of the 300 acre grounds of Rosby Winery & Guesthouse. From the pages of their website, it oozed tranquility and effortless chic. After highlighting what else there was to do in Mudgee besides food and wine - a plethora of charming neighbouring villages and national parks with spectacular scenery and world heritage listed bushland waiting to be explored - Peter’s mood picked up considerably. Signed and sealed.

With accommodation and restaurants booked, we departed Sydney at 10:30 am on a Monday and opted for the scenic route via Bell’s Line of Road instead of the sterility of the Great Western Highway. Stretching our legs and grabbing a bite to eat at a thoroughly forgettable eatery at Bilpin, we continued on for another 178 kms and arrived at the main town of Mudgee by 4 pm. We located Henry Lawson Drive with ease and drove for another 7 minutes before sighting the “Rosby Wines” signpost and turning right on to Strikes Lane.

Gingerly navigating the dirt road of Rosby Estate, we soaked up the magnificent scenery of sprawling paddocks that included 6 hectares of grapes. Turning left towards the signpost marked “Guesthouse” (straight ahead was the “Winery”), we made our way to the allocated Studio parking space. Rotating our stiff lower backs and limbs after stepping out of our dust-coated car, we grabbed our bags and, as per our instructions, let ourselves into the Studio. 



Rosby's Studio
While Rosby’s Guesthouse & Studio presented well on their website, the reality was far more beautiful and inviting. Light and fresh country air flooded into the self-contained space from the generously sized windows and sliding doors, bringing the magnificent view of the gardens and paddocks into the living space and bedroom. The decor, while sumptuous and luxurious, put guests at ease with a refined-relaxed aesthetic. Classic furniture pieces, updated with modern-neutral upholstery, were adorned with Kilim scatter cushions, adding an eclectic touch. Rugs and throw rugs gave extra appeal and comfort. Original artworks by Resident Artist (and Rosby co-owner), Kay Norton-Knight dotted the walls, a refreshing change to the generic prints of the majority of accommodations. The bedroom featured all white built-in wardrobes and bedlinen, expanding the space. Flowers in vases peppered the lounge room, bedroom and bathroom and an abundance of quality magazines and books were freely scattered for the guests’ enjoyment. 

As for the kitchen, it was extremely well stocked. From good quality pans, cooking utensils, crockery, glassware and a dish-washer, we also had everything we needed for a breakfast of kings: eggs from the Rosby chicken coop, middle rasher bacon in the fridge, a variety of tomatoes and chili from their vegetable patch, and even gluten-free bread and cereal for me.  A ‘Welcome’ note from Amber Norton-Knight, Kay’s daughter, awaited us on the dining room table, along with the front door keys and a complementary bottle of Rosby Shiraz, cheese and biscuits. Indeed, from the moment we walked into “our” Rosby space, the attention-to-detail whispered, “You are welcome and valued as our guests.”



Rosby Studio Bedroom
Over 3 days and nights, Mudgee wove her magic spell around us, manifesting in golden moments.... 
... like our private wine tasting with Gerry Norton-Knight of Rosby Wines the first evening of our arrival. Leading us on a short walk to a middle paddock that boasted one of the highest points on the property, we savoured his wines against a magnificent sunset and 360 degree panorama of the surrounding paddocks.... 

... like our dinner at The Wineglass Restaurant, where Peter gently chided a gentleman at the next table for speaking a little too loudly with his business associates, preventing Peter and I from conversing with each other and fully appreciating Chef Scott Tracey’s slow roasted chili jam lamb rump together with an excellent Bunnamagoo Cab Sav. As serendipity would have it, the gentleman was no other than Bunnamagoo’s winemaker Robert Black, a delightful gentleman who we caught up with 2 days later at the Bunnamagoo winery....

... like the natural splendour of The Drip, where we hiked amidst a charming ferny glade and gazed up at huge honeycomb cliffs that lined the gorge’s wall... 

... like Ferntree Gully, were we descended into an enormous rainforest gully and walked alongside lyrebirds, feeling like fairies traipsing through the Garden of Eden like it was our first day on Earth....

... like gazing in wonder at each and every glorious sunset and sunrise from the comfort of the Studio grounds at Rosby, and the sumptuous breakfasts that we prepared for ourselves with the produce that they provided for us, which we ate al fresco....

Such stuff dreams are made of.

And so on our last day at Mudgee, we took pains in leaving ‘our’ Rosby Studio as close to the way that we found it. Somehow, we had made it our own as we knew that we would be back.


Mudgee Nature Walks



Ferntree Gully, Growee (NSW)

While the Mudgee region is renown for tantalising the taste buds, its great outdoors have as much to offer its visitors.

* The Drip: Located in Goulburn River National Park, 50 kms north of Mudgee on the Cassilis Road. The Drip refers to a towering sandstone cliff-face adorned with weeping grasses and ferns and dripping clear spring water into the river below. There’s a sandy beach and large fallen rocks that you can sit on. The 1.5km track  takes about 30 minutes each way.

* Ferntree Gully: Located 40 minutes southeast of Mudgee via Lue (pronounced Lu-ee), just off the Bylong Valley Way (17 kms from Rylstone). A signpost on the main highway will point you towards a 3 km dirt track, which leads to the picnic area and start of walk. With a choice of two walks - the Sydney Peppermint Walk and the Gully Walk - we chose the more demanding, albeit dramatic, of the two. The Gully Walk took us 1 hour in total, including scenic stops.


Mudgee Wineries



Bunnamagoo Winery, Mudgee (NSW)
Mudgee has over 40 family-owned cellar doors, making it a very tough call to choose the ones to visit in a limited amount of time. Listed alphabetically, below were some of our favourites:

Bunnamagoo - Owned by the Paspaley family group, grapes destined for Bunnamagoo Wines are hand-picked into small bins, to save the first juice. Each vintage is pondered and the vigneron’s and the winemaker’s personal responses are discussed while the grapes are still on the vine. After vintage the wines are given time to slowly mature and develop before bottling and release. The vintages regularly sell out and may be hard to find. http://www.bunnamagoowines.com.au/home/.aspx

Di Lusso Estate - Di Lusso Estate vineyards specialise in Italian varieties and blends growing eight varieties of grapes, with up to fifteen wine styles on offer at any one time. Well worth the visit, if only to walk through their beautiful gardens and enjoy an antipasto platter in their courtyard with a glass of your favourite tipple, underneath a lush canopy of grapevines. http://www.dilusso.com.au

Gilbert Family Wines - Gilbert Family Wines began its journey in 2004 by fifth generation winemaker Simon Gilbert. Simon continues to craft great wines of purity, elegance and vibrancy, varietally true to itself, clean and technically sound. Gilbert’s newly open Cellar Door, ‘The Cellar by Gilbert’ has been awarded Best Cellar Door in Mudgee, in the category ‘Best Additional Experience’ by Gourmet Wine Traveller. https://www.gilbertfamilywines.com.au

Robert Stein - The Robert Stein Vineyard traces its family history back to the earliest days of Australia's pioneers. Brought out from Germany by the Macarthur family (of sheep-breeding fame) in 1838, Johann Stein carried with him the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling to survive in Australia. Over a century later tradition was revived when in 1976 Robert "Bob" Stein, a great-great grandson, purchased 75 acres at the present location in Mudgee and embarked on a rigorous planting programme - Shiraz being the first rootlings planted. Under Bob's watchful gaze, modern equipment and technology combines with honourable traditions to produce a variety of red and white table wines of award winning quality. The Robert Stein winery also boasts an additional attraction, its Vintage Motorbike collection, which includes rare motorcycle collectables and photographs on display. The museum is open daily and entry is free.  https://www.robertstein.com.au

Rosby Wines - Rosby Wines are the epitome of low-impact viticulture and truly boutique wine production. Borne from 15 acres of 20-year-old cabernet sauvignon and shiraz grapes — planted, pruned and picked by hand — the vineyard is carefully managed to produce high-quality, low-yield crops. http://www.rosby.com.au


Restaurants & Cafes Open Midweek


Eltons, Mudgee (NSW)
* The Wineglass - Owned and run by f ormer Rockpool Head Chef Scott Tracey, who purchased the restaurant and moved to Mudgee to provide a healthier lifestyle for his young family. The Wineglass offers a seasonal menu that’s inspired by the regions local produce. Open Sunday to Saturday.

* Isabella’s Trattoria - Despite not having a website that we could check the menu out on - Isabella is more than happy to text you an image of their menu if you ask for it - this restaurant delivers what it promises and more. Delicious, generously portioned, and down-to-earth Italian home cuisine. BYO, no corkage.

* Eltons - An elegant 1890s building, offering a global menu, cool vibe and craft beers on tap.

* Kelly’s Irish Pub - Don’t let the term ‘Irish Pub’ deter all you quiet diners from giving this traditional pub a shot. While it rocks over the weekends with live bands, it’s positively tranquil during the week. The food is surprisingly good (try the crisp skin salmon) and should the Mudgee winter chills get to you, there’s a huge fireplace you can dine right next to.

* The Butcher Shop Cafe - This hip cafe is well worth the visit, if only to check out its bones as an historic butcher shop dating back to 1875. Enjoy freshly squeezed juices and coffee made from home-roasted beans amidst aged metal ceiling rails and tiled walls. Try the ‘Butcher's Benedict'. Open for breakfast and lunch only.


Heritage Villages



29 Nine 99 Yum Cha & Tea House, Rylstone (NSW)
Rylstone - Rylstone makes a worthwhile detour either on the way back to Mudgee after a visit to Ferntree Gully (as we did) or on the way back to Sydney after your Mudgee stay. You can pick up a brochure for the Rylstone Heritage Walk and learn more about the town's colonial-era sandstone buildings, including its four stone churches and early stone and timber cottages. Don’t miss a leisurely yum cha lunch and tea at the iconic 29 Nine 99 Yum Cha & Tea House. Somewhat of a Rylstone institution, this restaurant/ gift shop is owned by artist Na Lan, who grew up in Xian (central Shaanxi province). The restaurant is named after the date she married her Australian husband, Reg (the 29th of September 1999). 

Gulgong - About 30 km from Mudgee, Gulgong was originally a 19th-century gold rush town. With approximately 130 buildings with National Trust classification, you can take a self-guided walking tour of the town's historic sites.



Self-prepared breakfast at Rosby Guesthouse & Studio (Mudgee, NSW)


We stayed at:
Rosby Guesthouse
135 Strikes Lane (off Henry Lawson Drive), Eurunderee, Mudgee NSW
www.rosbyguesthouse.com.au

NB: The writer was a paying guest at Rosby Guesthouse.

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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 8th May, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Australia
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Fashion CEO Invites Us to Nurture, Nourish and Thrive in New Zealand’s North Island



Annah Stretton: Social Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Author and Public Speaker
According to The Wall Street Journal, a Harvard Medical School study found that some 96% of senior leaders feel somewhat burned out, with a third describing their condition as ‘extreme’. This comes as little surprise to one of NZ's most successful fashion businesswoman Annah Stretton , who states: “I see senior leaders everywhere who are completely disconnected from the most precious thing in the world, their health and wellbeing. That is until a catalyst occurs, which is often too late.” Her desire to address this serious issue has led her to her newest venture, Te Atawhai Wholeness Retreat .

Founder of the largely successful Stretton Fashion Group, philanthropist, publisher, author and public speaker, Annah Stretton is no stranger to burning the candle on both ends. Driven to taking charge of her wellness after battling with her own health for 35 years, she had an epiphany after attending her first wellness retreat. Blown away by the transformation in her own health and mindset, she was eager to share her ‘new normal’ with worn out and weary professionals the world over. In August 2016, and in partnership with former mental health nurse Rebecca Skilton and trainer and gym owner Sherryll Gordon, Te Atawhai was born.

Te Atawhai (pronounced aa-Taa-F-AY) is a modern sanctuary located in the rural town of Te Aroha, nestled at the foothills of the magnificent Mount Te Aroha, 2.5 hours south of Auckland. Meaning ‘to care for’ in Maori, it was created with the sole purpose of reconnecting mind, body and spirit into one magnificent whole. With proven wellness practices that have been designed to seamlessly replace unhealthy mind, mouth and movement habits, guests are exposed to an organic whole foods diet that can seamlessly fit into their daily ritual.

“Once our guests have experienced the difference that a whole foods diet can make to their health and wellbeing, they rarely look back,” Stretton says.

More than just being introduced to a new way of eating and preparing food, guests are gently separated from the distraction of their daily lives by the “no alcohol, no coffee, no sugar, no technology” policy at the retreat. Becoming immersed in a series of simple but powerful lifestyle practices that hold movement and mindfulness at the core, Te Atawhai’s programme includes mountain treks, cycling, massage, thermal soaks and equine assisted learning. Add to the equation the ‘quiet town’ charm of Edwardian Te Aroha, the pristine beauty of the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park, and the majesty of Mount Te Aroha and the inevitable result of the 4-Day wholeness journey is the re-establishment of a deep sense of peace and calm in the world.

Seeing her fair share of adrenal fatigue and biochemistry imbalances in her practice on a daily basis, Sydney Chiropractor and authority on holistic healing Dr Kate Willesee was a recent guest at Te Atawhai. She had this to say: “Being a health professional, I have been to many retreats. Te Atawhai has been the best for me.... I came away feeling refreshed and refueled... I rate it a ten out of ten.”

Annah Stretton leaves us with a last thought to ponder over: “The preservation of one’s health is easier and less costly than the cure of disease. So it makes perfect sense to build the best version of yourself each and every day. After all, your body is the one person you will have the longest relationship with.”

* Ask us about Te Atawhai’s Sydney Launch on 23 March, 2017 and the opportunity to meet Annah Stretton. Invitation and details to follow.

Fast Facts:

In order to give its guests the highest quality experience, numbers at Te Atawhai Wholeness Retreat are strictly limited, catering to groups of between 9-12 guests only.

* Te Atawhai 4 - Day Wholeness Retreat: NZD $2,900 (Per Person + GST 15%) * Te Atawhai 1 - Day Package: 5 – 9 People NZD $280 (Per Person + GST 15%) 10 – 13 People NZD $260 (Per Person + GST 15%)

Location: Te Atawhai’s ‘Domain House’ is located in the rural town of Te Aroha, in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Website: http://teatawhai.co.nz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeAtawahi/ Instagram: @te_atawhai

Contact Details: victoria@TeAtawhai.com  
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Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 11th March, 2017 | Comments | Trackbacks | Permalink
Categories: Opinions, New Zealand
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