September 28, 2013
Chateau Royal Hotel, Noumea

Chateau Royal Hotel, Noumea

Australians love to travel, but one of the problems we experience is our geographic location where we are so far away from the history and culture of Europe.  Unless you have at least three weeks for a holiday, it’s hardly worth sitting on a plane for almost 23 hours to travel half way round the world.

Closer to home, if you want to experience a touch of the French lifestyle, New Caledonia is only 2½ hours flying time from Sydney.

Enjoying Hibiscus Class on Aircalin

Enjoying Hibiscus Class on Aircalin

Aircalin offers daily flights to Noumea, leaving Sydney early afternoon, giving you plenty of time to pack in the morning then travel to the airport, without having to set the alarm clock for a pre-dawn wake up.  Their Airbus A330-200 offers the latest in comfort.  On a recent flight I decided to begin the holiday in style and travel Business Class, or Hibiscus Class as it is known on Aircalin.

The French experience began the minute I boarded the plane, being welcomed by the charming crew whose English came with a tinge of their French accents, making you want to listen to every word they spoke. Once seated I was offered a glass (or two) of champagne, which really put me in the holiday mood.

After departure, it wasn’t long before I was served my three course meal, which was actually delicious, accompanied by a choice of red or white wines and served with all the flair of a fine dining establishment. No problems about airline food on Aircalin. After finishing my coffee, I thought I’d get in a short snooze so I pressed a few buttons on the arm rest and my seat turned into a lie flat bed.  Such comfort, I was sorry the flight was not longer.

Chatyeau Royal Hotel

Chateau Royal Hotel

Arriving early evening at Noumea’s modern La Tontouta International Airport, we moved quickly through customs and immigration procedures, collected the luggage and went outside the terminal to meet the Arc en Ciel transportation service that was to drive us to the hotel. We had booked and paid for this service on line, prior to leaving Sydney, which streamlined the procedure. We shared the spacious mini-van with others from the plane, but if desired, a private transportation could be booked for a higher fee. The airport is 45kms from the city, so it’s a shame the flight arrives after dark, as you cannot see the beautiful scenery on the way into town.  However, I did enjoy the scenic trip on the return journey to the airport.

We stayed at the newly opened Chateau Royal Hotel, located on the beach at Anse Vata, set amidst tropical gardens and lawns.  Our room, which was actually a two room suite, had a full length balcony that could be accessed from both rooms, and the sweeping views across the bay could be seen from almost every part of the room. There was also a fully equipped kitchen, perfect for those wanting to try their hand at cooking some of the local produce.

Although the hotel is right on Anse Vata beach, there’s also a large swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees, ideal for relaxing in the sun.  The hotel is also famous for their spa, providing massages and every sort of beauty treatment one would expect.  With several restaurants and bars, the hotel offers everything for a perfect stay. 

Sandra Tiltman     PHOTOS:  John Pond


September 28, 2013

screenshot_166As a lover of a good martini, the title of Australian author Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan’s new novel caught my eye.

“Hardly Branson: Seven Days in Space with a Martini” has been released on Amazon, where it is described as “A hilarious expose of the travel industry. Bridget Jones meets the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy and organises his book launch. The flaws and foibles of a cast of dubious characters are mercilessly mocked. The perfect book to read on your next inter-galactic space shuttle.”

Nicole’s latest work is a comedic science fiction tale in the genre of Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchett and her favourite writer, the late Douglas Adams, whom Nicole was privileged to interview. Her most prized possession is her copy of the Douglas Adams’ Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which bear the words: “To Nicole, Whose questions were much more clever than my answers! With best wishes, Douglas Adams”, after she interviewed him in Sydney for the Peak Magazine (Singapore) and Oyster Magazine.

Nicole’s first published work was a children’s cook book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Borneo’s Magic Recipe Spells” which was utilised by Malaysia Airlines and given away to children who flew on the airline.

The Kindle version of “Hardly Branson: Seven Days in Space with a Martini” can be purchased on Amazon for $0.99.  Sounds like a fun read over the Christmas and New Year holiday break.

Sandra Tiltman 


September 22, 2013


Teresia Fors, Managing Director Australia & New Zealand of Viking River Cruises showed off her Swedish national dress at the recent launch of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s exhibition “Vikings – Beyond the Legend” at Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Teresia said her grandmother wove the fabric, her mother did the embroidery and her great-grandmother made the blouse, truly a family effort.

Sandra Tiltman with Teresia Fors

Sandra Tiltman with Teresia Fors

Swedish food and even bottles of Viking Beer enhanced the Viking mood throughout the evening.

An exciting highlight was the “invasion” by Vikings holding flaming torches, followed by a swordfight, as Vikings watched to cheer on the victor.  The loser was carried away on a stretcher, after which the exhibition was declared open. The Vikings provided a guard of honour as guests entered the Museum to view the exhibition.

Viking Cruises is a major partner of the exhibition, showing at the Museum for a limited time.  Direct from Sweden, the variety of treasures on display reveal how the Vikings lived, going beyond the myth of Vikings as ferocious plunderers in horned helmets.

Amongst the artefacts that have never been seen in Australia before are Viking swords from 700-1100AD, bronze and silver jewellery, statuettes of Norse gods, gold and silver pendants as well as an eight metre replica of a Viking boat plus a restored reconstruction of a 9th century ship.

Sandra Tiltman            Photos:  John Pond



September 21, 2013


River cruising is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry and due to its popularity, Viking River Cruises recently announced they will be increasing their original order of twelve Viking Longships by an additional two vessels and will next year launch fourteen new Longships

This increased order reflects Viking’s position as the world’s leading river cruise line and by the end of 2014, they will have introduced a total of thirty new ships over a three year period, making this the most rapid fleet expansion program the cruise industry has ever seen. Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises said “We are working hard to match supply with demand and with these new builds, we have the best designed, newest and most extensive offer of ships on the rivers, more than double all our competitors combined.”

River cruising has grown at an average annual rate of approximately nine percent over the last few years and in March this year, Viking set a world record with the inauguration and simultaneous christening ceremony in Amsterdam of ten new Longships for the 2013 sailing season.

Offering modern design and comfortable amenities, plus their exceptional standard and variety of food, Viking Longships give passengers an unforgettable experience which ensures a high rate of return passengers. A revolutionary all-weather indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace is a new feature that reinvents the onboard lounge experience by bringing the panoramic outdoor river scenery indoors with retractable floor to ceiling glass doors and allows passengers to enjoy the views and dine al fresco

Freya Cologne HorizViking Longships layout allows for two Explorer Suites and seven two-room Veranda Suites with full size veranda in the living room and French balcony in the bedroom. The 39 Veranda Staterooms have full size verandas and there are 22 French Balcony Staterooms.  All Longships have sustainability upgrades such as onboard solar panels and organic herb gardens.  The energy efficient hybrid engines reduce vibrations, giving a very smooth ride.

Since Viking’s 1997 inception, their fleet has grown to 35 river vessels, cruising along the rivers of Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China and Southeast Asia. Featuring included shore excursions and on board cultural enrichment, excellent dining choices with included wine, it is easy to see why river cruising with Viking attracts passengers.

One of Viking’s most popular river cruises is the fifteen day Grand European Tour from Amsterdam to Budapest or return along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers. This cruise offers a variety of sights, from Holland’s windmills and tulip fields to Germany’s fairytale castles and the picturesque vineyards of Austria’s Wachau Valley.

Viking Cruises is a major partner of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s upcoming exhibition “Vikings – Beyond the Legend” commencing on 19 September for a limited time.  Located at Sydney’s Darling Harbour, this exhibition, direct from Sweden, will display a variety of treasures and reveal how the Vikings lived, going beyond the myth of Vikings as ferocious plunderers in horned helmets.

Amongst the artefacts that have never been seen in Australia are Viking swords from 700-1100AD, bronze and silver jewellery, statuettes of Norse gods, gold and silver pendants as well as an eight metre replica of a Viking boat plus a restored reconstruction of a 9th century ship.     Sandra Tiltman 


September 21, 2013


The Lincoln Centre Theater’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s famous musical “South Pacific” has returned to the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House for a strictly limited second season and is sure to be as popular or even more so, as it was last year, playing to sell out crowds.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes is again starring as French Planter, Emile De Becque and Lisa McCune is also returning in her role as US Navy Nurse, Nellie Forbush.  Known to most for her TV work, Ms McCune charms the audience with her singing, especially with her performance of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair”

The 34 piece orchestra makes Rodgers & Hammerstein’s well loved music and lyrics come alive.  The fact that I knew every tune and all the words made the production even more enjoyable.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes’ deep voice singing “Some Enchanted Evening” sets the mood as the story, involving the lives and loves of the US Navy sailors and nurses based in the Pacific during World War II, unfolds.

Gyton Grantley is also well known to audiences for his TV roles, especially as Carl Williams in Underbelly. As Luther Billis, he has one of the show highlights, singing “There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame” along with the Seabees.

Blake Bowden, the winner of the 2011 Rob Guest Endowment Award, provides another magic moment for the audience when, as Lieutenant Cable, he sings “Younger Than Springtime”.

This is the first Rodgers & Hammerstein production that Opera Australia has presented and after enjoying this one so much, I hope OA will bring Australian audiences more from this incredible American duo.

Sandra Tiltman 


September 21, 2013

image002Whether you’re after a bargain, a one-of-a-kind piece or simply want to browse the treasure trove of items from times gone by, The Vintage & Retro Fair is a great day out, bringing together the best dealers in vintage, antique and retro clothing, fashion, accessories textiles, jewellery, homewares, furniture, home decor and collectables.

The Vintage & Retro Fair offers plenty of variety, with the best dealers from each era catering for a unique and varied crowd. Antique hunters will love the older trinkets and collectables dating from over 100 years ago, vintage lovers will flock to the genuine curio from 1920s onwards and retro fans can search stalls filled with inspired and sourced pieces from the last 20 years.

Browse through the couture clothing, ornate costume jewellery, hats, shoes, sunglasses, handbags, designer one-offs, menswear, posters, magazines, sewing patterns, fabrics, furniture, retro home decor, belts buckles and trinkets.

Other highlights include live fashion parades, vintage makeovers from different styles and eras and even pin-up style photo shoots. There will also be a special exhibition from the Cavalcade of History and Fashion, a not for profit group set up to preserve some fantastic pieces of clothing from the past.  The exhibition focuses solely on 1950s clothing so check out the fashions of the fabulous post-war world. All the glamour of Marilyn, James Dean, Elvis Presley and the rockabilly era

There’s a display of classic cars to add to the feeling of stepping into the past.

The Vintage & Retro Fair
 from 27-29 September 2013
at Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh. Opening Hours: Friday night (27 Sept): 5.30pm – 9:00pm, Saturday: 10am to 5pm, Sunday: 10am to 4pm – Tickets available at the door or online at 

Sandra Tiltman 


September 16, 2013
Tribute Artist, Damian Mullin

Tribute Artist, Damian Mullin

The legend of Elvis lives on.

Johnny Welsh, who put on last year’s fantastic three night Elvis Cruise on board Royal Caribbean’s “Rhapsody Of The Seas”, where 15 Elvis tribute artists kept the passengers entertained night and day, brought Elvis back to Sydney for one day only.

Sandra Tiltman with "Elvis", Mark Andrew.

Sandra Tiltman with “Elvis”, Mark Andrew.

Recently Johnny Welsh’s Music Themes Australia organised a four hour cruise around Sydney Harbour, where fans were entertained by not one, but two Elvis tribute artists, Mark Andrew and Damian Mullin.  During their performances, both artists gave us different versions of Elvis throughout his career, with their costume changes and song choices.

Fans of all ages enjoyed the afternoon cruise, which also included lunch, and will be sure to return for the next Elvis Sydney HarbourCruise on 3 November which will feature Pete Storm from the UK and Australia’s very own Allan Wright and Elias Jamhour.

To book tickets, call Margot on 0418 166 436.

Sandra Tiltman.

Photos:  John Pond