Monthly Archives: October 2018

Dumpling delight

Delightful: Red lanterns in Chinatown. Photo: Linda McCormick’So, how do they get the soup inside the dumpling?” I asked, biting through the white luscious surface to let the salty contents pour forth.
Nanjing Night Net

With a smirk, our guide, Monique, replied: “Ha, I was just waiting for someone to ask. Someone always does.” Her answer paralysed my swallowing reflex.

We were sitting in Shanghai Street dumpling house, savouring their Xiao Long Bao, which have had a cult following from day one. It was our third restaurant on the dumpling walking tour and I was quickly developing a whole new appreciation for these little morsels of goodness.

Dumplings come in all shapes and sizes, and, as I found out on the tour, are quite particular to certain areas of the world. There’s a way to fold them, cook them and eat them. And they’re all good.

Meeting at a pre-arranged point in the city centre, Monique from Walk Melbourne talked us through the plan for the night. Our group of nine would visit four of Melbourne’s fine dumpling establishments during the evening tour, which would take around three hours.

Our first stop was at North East China Family on Elizabeth Street. While we waited for the first serve of dumplings, Monique gave us a little history of the place and the people who run it. She pointed out a huge poster relaying the origin of the humble dumpling: “Jiao Zi date back 1800 years to the great medical practitioner Zhonging Zhang of East Han Dynasty in northern China, but the dumplings served up at North East China Family are a recipe perfected by one of the restaurant owner’s ancestors.”

Before tasting the dumplings, we were told how to make our own dipping sauce, which is very much up to personal preference. Monique recommends just a few drops of chilli oil in a small dish of soy sauce. I like a hint of heat, but my lips swell up with too much chilli – so I played it safe for the first tasting.

Two plates laden with spinach dumplings stuffed with cabbage and carrot were set in the middle of the table, sending my salivary glands into a little samba all of their own. I was hungry, but etiquette says one shouldn’t just dive in when in the presence of strangers, so I did the decent thing and waited until a few others had taken their first dumpling before nabbing mine. I breathed it in, hoping nobody noticed.

I can’t say I’m a fan of cabbage, but thankfully the Chinese variety tastes very different to the mush I was used to as a child. I gave the second dumpling a little more attention.

After dipping it into my personally mixed sauce I gingerly took a bite, waiting for the chilli to sting. But it didn’t. It was just right. It maybe could have had a little more kick, but I wanted to preserve my tastebuds for later.

Leaving the dumpling house, we walked north through the city streets, following Monique to the next destination. It was an opportunity to find out more about the walking tours, which have been running for a bit over a year.

Monique left a well-paying corporate job to do something more fulfilling. Being passionate about Melbourne’s food, wine and coffee scene, she decided to share her love for her native city and its cuisine with others through a series of tours. Each is set out on a carefully planned route through Melbourne’s very walkable central business district. Most of the tours are a few hours long, with some – like this dumpling tour – being exclusive to Walk Melbourne.

“Don’t forget to look up,” shouted Monique. “So many people forget to look up in a city, and miss so much.”

The writer was a guest of Walk Melbourne.

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Twenty reasons to visit Christchurch

Recycling: The Re:Start complex is built from shipping containers.1 QUAKE CITY
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When a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch at 12.51pm on February 22, 2011, the earth rose one metre. A short time later, the earth moved horizontally the same distance. In its wake, 185 people died and a city centre became a terrifying scene of collapsed and teetering buildings, falling masonry and giant palls of dust. Quake City is a visitor centre dedicated to telling the story of this and a less destructive, but more powerful, earthquake that hit about six months earlier.

canterburymuseum南京夜网/quakecity

2 CITY OF CHURCHES

Given the name of the city and the piety of its founders, it was especially painful that every church was damaged in the February quake. Among the worst hit was the 19th century Christ Church Cathedral, situated at the physical and symbolic heart of the city. Its 63-metre spire collapsed and, so great was the damage, no church member has returned and few treasured items, like hymn books, were recovered. Today, the cathedral stands forlorn behind hurricane fencing, its nave wall is just a massive gaping hole.

3 CARDBOARD CATHEDRAL

Three CBD buildings survived the quake almost intact: a strip club, the casino and a gym. But cathedral worshippers were not down for long. Today, choral music rings out across Latimer Square from the Cardboard Cathedral. Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, its A-line roof is constructed of 98 cardboard tubes, each up to 20 metres in length and covered in polycarbonate sheeting. There’s also lots of steel, timber and, below ground, tonnes of concrete. Conceived as a temporary measure, it now has an estimated 50-year lifespan.

cardboardcathedral.org.nz

4 185 EMPTY CHAIRS

A few steps away from the new cathedral and close to the CTV building where many lives were lost, there’s a tribute that’s so stark and moving it simply stops you in your tracks. On a grassy, vacant block at the corner of Cashel and Madras streets, 185 white chairs stand starkly in rows of nine. There are dining, office, kitchen and outdoor chairs, stools, a baby’s basinet and a wheelchair. Each one represents a life lost.

5 C1 ESPRESSO

For a long time, the CBD was in the so-called red zone and closed to the public. Today, it’s a scene of vacant blocks, half-demolished buildings and limited commercial life. With almost no high-rises, a statue of a bloke on top of C1 Espresso’s grand premises is easy to find. And find it you must for fabulous coffee, great corn fritters and buttermilk pancakes. The cafe’s quirky features include DIY water via an antique sewing machine.

C1espresso.co.nz

6 PALLET PAVILION

C1 also does brisk trade selling a pre-quake street map poster emblazoned with the words “There’s nothing to see here”. It’s harsh, but even the locals confess to sometimes forgetting what once went where. But life is returning. Where buildings once stood, some truly inspirational developments have grown. Places like the Pallet Pavilion, a series of outdoor rooms created using stacks of blue pallets as walls, seats and planters. Food and drinks are served at the site from a double-decker bus and old caravans.

palletpavilion南京夜网

7 GAP GOLF

Fancy a hit? The par 6, second hole of the Gap Golf putting course is located beside Pallet Pavilion. It’s one of nine holes across the city in a project designed to get people to venture into what is known as the Garden City but has the contemporary nickname of “gravel city” because of its vacant lots. Each golf hole acknowledges its site’s history. Equipment available at the Pallet caravan.

gapfiller.org.nz

8 CONTAINER LOAD

Christchurch lends itself to another family game: I spy a shipping container. It’s easy because they are berthed everywhere. After the earthquake they were a quick, easy and stable solution for many homeless businesses. Bank branches and ATMs operate from them along with cafes, bars, a pizza shop and beauty salon. Some are used in their original state – often for storage – while others have been given the Grand Designs treatment with the sides opened, windows installed and superior paint jobs. But most are stacked, like Lego, supporting crumbling facades.

9 RE:START

Containers come into their own at Re:Start, a pedestrianised shopping complex constructed almost entirely from the steel boxes. In primary colours and placed single and double storey with awnings stretched across the pathways, the funky containers are home to more than 40 retailers such as former city bookshop Scorpio Books. Fashion labels include Mimco, Nicholas Jermyn shirtmakers and cool Kiwi outfits like Soeur Design, Kathryn Wilson designer shoes and Christchurch jeans institution Hunters and Collectors.

restart.org.nz

10 HUMMINGBIRD CAFE

Kiwis and Australians share a love of fine coffee. One of New Zealand’s best, Hummingbird, was established in 1990 and hand roasts about 20 single origins. It’s a good reason to visit the two-storey Hummingbird Cafe, constructed of three containers, at Re:Start. Another is the terrific food. At breakfast, try juicy mushrooms on thick toast with spinach, warm fetta and a squeeze of lemon. Choose Re:Start blend coffee and a donation goes towards the historic Court Theatre rebuild.

hummingbirdcoffee.co.nz

11 EAT STREET

In a city centre that goes spookily dark and silent after nightfall, Re:Start is a lively daytime hub. To follow the action after nightfall, head for Victoria Street which radiates from the CBD. On and around this notable eat street, find hip Asian favourite King of Snake and Harlequin Public House, a smart restaurant in a historic house. Take a seat at the counter of slick Japanese restaurant Sala Sala and order outstanding salmon and tuna sashimi with a glass of sake.

kingofsnake.co.nz; hphchch.co.nz; salasala.co.nz

12 COOL BARS

After the quake, people felt safer outdoors. That, and the necessity to use containers, created an awesome bar scene, much of it around Victoria Street. At Revival, a DJ plays, an All Blacks game is projected on a wall, chairs are made from supermarket trolleys and cocktails come from a converted container. A bus acts as a bar at Smash Palace, where patrons sit under giant umbrellas and fairy lights. It’s huge fun.

revivalbar.co.nz; thesmashpalace.co.nz

13 THE TANNERY

The earthquakes are reshaping Christchurch, with much commercial development moving to the outer fringes and suburbs. Woolston, a thriving tannery centre in the late 1800s, is now home to a stylish centre of shops, restaurants and a brewery called The Tannery. In a restored brick and timber building once used for supplying hides to the shoe and boot industry, Cassells and Sons craft brewery operates alongside Gustav’s Kitchen and Wine Bar. Order mussel fritters and diamond shell crab with Alchemist pale ale.

thetannery.co.nz

14 NEW REGENT STREET

Whisky lovers should not leave town without visiting cocktail bar The Last Word. It’s situated in New Regent Street, a delightful pedestrianised mall, fully operating in the city centre, and home to specialty boutiques, restaurants and shops. The Last Word has a wide range of whisk(e)ys but visitors also find shops selling jewellery, clothes and the famed Mrs Higgins cookies. Opened in 1932, the pastel-coloured terraced shops are Spanish Mission in style.

newregentstreet.co.nz

15 HERITAGE HOTEL

Hotels are among the first businesses to be re-established in the CBD and the granddaddy of them all is the Heritage Hotel. For more than a century, this imposing building with arches and columns aplenty has been a gateway to Cathedral Square. A government building for most of its life, the public rooms and bedrooms are on a grand scale with wide corridors, sweeping staircase and high ceilings. Modern necessities include a well-equipped gym and indoor pool.

heritagehotels.co.nz

16 GONDOLA RIDE

No one is quite sure where Christchurch’s population stands. It was about 400,000 pre-quake, making it New Zealand’s second largest city, but many allegedly left town. A recent census will soon reveal all. In the meantime, look down on the city by riding the Christchurch gondola, or cable car, one kilometre up to the top of Mt Cavendish. The 360 degree views include the Southern Alps, ocean, Port Hills and the crater rim around Lyttelton Harbour.

gondola.co.nz

17 ARTHUR’S PASS

Having looked down on the surrounding country, hire a car and take a drive. Head inland to Arthur’s Pass for a spectacular trip across the Canterbury Plains then uphill into the Southern Alps. The road is a mix of single-track bridges across wide, stony river beds and ice-blue waters, splendid vistas of snow-covered peaks and high lakes. This is Lord of the Rings country. Arthur’s Pass village is a good spot for lunch.

18 AKAROA AND BANKS PENINSULA

For an altogether more gentle day’s drive, head to Akaroa, the South Island’s oldest colonial town and the country’s only French settlement. It sits by a beautiful harbour and, when you’ve explored the historic town, take a cruise to see penguins, fur seals and the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, Hector’s dolphins. There’s no escaping New Zealand’s shaky character … the peninsula originates from volcanos millions of years ago.

akaroa南京夜网

19 ANTARCTIC CENTRE

Christchurch is the world’s airline connection to the Antarctic. America and Italy are among those who use the airport, flying about 100 military aircraft with 5500 passengers and 1400 tonnes of cargo annually. Take a trip to the world’s coldest place without leaving the ground by visiting the Antarctic Centre. Dedicated to recreating the harsh continent, visitors can take a 3D simulated cruise, experience a storm at -8C, see an Antarctic light show and travel in a giant overland truck.

iceberg.co.nz

20 JUST WALK

Few of us ever visit a disaster area – or want to – but there’s an element of it in Christchurch CBD, a fascinating study of a place in transition. There’s also vitality about the place and some of the world’s most creative minds are there to work on a blank canvas. Just walk to see exciting street art, new buildings, creative uses of ordinary objects. It’s an inspiration.

The writer travelled with assistance from Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.

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The green beyond the gold

Luxury lodge: Dreamridge Retreat is set in about 10 hectares of landscaped gardens in the Currumbin Valley. Grand setting: A dining area at the retreat.
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A hilltop haven is the perfect place to dream a weekend away, writes Angela Young.

As our poor little car struggles up the incredibly steep incline of Tomewin’s slope, it becomes abundantly clear that even if there is just a tiny, grotty little shack at the top, we are going to have some amazing views.

Of course, there is no shack. And Dreamridge certainly isn’t tiny.

But those views definitely are amazing. Spectacular, in fact.

From the sumptuous master bedroom (one of six), two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows allow the occupants sweeping, 180-degree views of what the locals call “the green beyond the gold” – the stunning Gold Coast hinterland, proof that a trip to the Gold Coast doesn’t have to mean over-bronzed blondes or yachties with tattoos.

Beyond the region’s golden beaches lies this lush, mountainous realm, with idyllic, rural communities that still manage to boast sea views – yes, even from our serene inland spot.

Owned by Shaun and Donna Williams, Dreamridge Retreat is among a small handful of high-end properties available to hire on Tomewin Mountain, and is definitely the most impressive (although the others, including the very funky Viria and gorgeous little B&B Kallora Escape, are still lovely, beautifully presented holiday spots).

Bedecked in sculptured wood and a vast array of antiques, the furniture and many of the fittings are handmade by the creative pair, while the historical items adorning the walls and shelves – ranging from 1950s Coca-Cola freezers to ancient-looking tools and traps – are from their personal collection.

The sheer expanse and outlook from Dreamridge, over Mount Cougal, Springbrook Mountain and Mount Tallebudgera, is breathtaking, but we’re soon back on solid (albeit high) ground with a comforting cup of tea and homemade muffin from the overflowing hamper kindly provided by Donna atop a kitchen worktop that must once have been a serious piece of forestry.

Dreamridge is not only a timber wonderland. The landscaped gardens are also perfectly coiffed, testament to Shaun’s landscape gardener background – and he’s obviously a perfectionist.

The couple have thought of practically everything when it comes to the little details – plush linen, comfy bathrobes, a very well-stocked kitchen and larder, music equipment and DVDs, candles, birdseed . . . The only thing amiss is the lack of a full-length mirror in each of the bedrooms – crucial if the property is to host weddings in the future, which is definitely on Shaun and Donna’s agenda, with “entrance by helicopter” an option for the flamboyant.

We’re keen to experience Mount Tomewin properly, so we head off down the hill to purchase some of the tasty produce on offer at the quaint, dilapidated Freeman’s Fruit Stall truck, selling organic fruit and vegetables, including tasty bananas from trees planted way back in 1928.

The night is almost as impressive as the day at Dreamridge. We follow a beautiful sunset with a roaring log fire to keep out any hilltop chills. Probably best not to watch a horror movie on the widescreen, though – those vast windows, blackened by night, could have even hardy souls jumping at the slightest noise.

Next morning, I make sure to wake early in order to open the master’s curtains – it would be sacrilege not to lie in bed and lazily revel in that glorious view.

Duly sated, and after a handsome breakfast enjoyed on the large verandah, we take the short hike up to the local Hanging Rock, a precarious-looking geological formation just behind the property – impressive, if sadly lacking author Joan Lindsay’s air of mystery.

This mild exertion leads the weary group to collapse into the four hammocks in the garden, where we gently rock away our final afternoon, snoozing and taking in the unbelievable peace and serenity.

It’s hard to believe the bustle and activity of the brassy Gold Coast is so close . . . just over there, in fact.

I can see its golden beaches and blue surf, but I can’t hear it up here on my peaceful perch.

It would be silly not have to one more doze in these blissful surroundings, I think, as I nod off to the sound of birds singing and absolutely nothing else.TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

One hour’s drive from Brisbane, 10 minutes from Currumbin.

HOW MUCH

$1600 a night.

STYLE STATEMENT

Natural, woodsy haven on high.

PERFECT FOR

Groups of friends or couples, families, weddings.

SHAME ABOUT

The lack of a pool or spa.

KUDOS

The artefact and photo-adorned walls – the cosy front lounge is like a history lesson.

TAKE THE KIDS

Yes, there’s plenty of space for gallivanting, and the games room/library is well stocked.

MORE INFORMATION

Dreamridge Retreat, 639 Tomewin Mountain Road, Currumbin Valley, Qld.

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Salute to the Fab Four

Peppered: Blake’s restaurant is an appreciation of the designer of the amazing Sergeant Pepper album coverWhen writing about the Beatles, it’s tempting to mine their song list for titles and phrases. With that in mind, I’ll try to avoid mentioning my “golden slumbers” (sorry, too late) at the Hard Days Night Hotel, but I should mention that the room service menu is labelled “Any time at all” and you can hang a sign on your door saying “Let it be,” rather than the usual “Do not disturb”.
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This isn’t the only four-star hotel in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool, England, but it is certainly the ideal port of call for many of the 600,000 tourists who visit every year to pay homage to the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band. (Such is their status that, even if you disagree, “world’s greatest” sounds like a rational description.)

A Beatles hotel? The idea is so obvious, it’s surprising that it took so long for some enterprising soul to open one. Obtaining the rights, of course, was a lengthy process. (You could say a “long and winding road”, but we won’t, thank you very much.) The music in the lobby is a mixture of Beatles songs and – just to provide variety – cover versions.

Happily, it is a step above the usual theme hotel. Each room is bright and colourful, with a different framed picture over the bed. Some guests specifically ask for a room with a picture of their favourite Beatle. I’m happy with anyone, so I awake under John Lennon, alongside his scrawled lyrics to Help.

The hotel’s two upstairs suites – the John Lennon Suite (styled after Lennon’s whiter-than-white New York apartment) and the Paul McCartney Suite (complete with a suit of armour in the corner, cheekily included because Macca is now a Knight of the Realm) – are out of action for the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, thanks to a fire earlier this year. They should reopen in early 2014, in time for anyone wishing to celebrate the anniversary of the band’s momentous Australian tour.

Fortunately, the thematic decoration doesn’t go much further. While the room design is funky and cheerful, the hotel withholds the desire to place a lava lamp in each room. The Beatles, after all, were not simply a frivolous pop band. Hard Days Night is not a cute, Disney-style construction, but part of a stylish, 128-year-old building.

For Beatles fans, the locale is part of the attraction. It’s around the corner from the Cavern Club, the Beatles’ first public venue, where new bands still perform. It’s a hop, step and jump to the Beatles Story museum, which sends visitors into a yellow submarine and an expert reconstruction of the Cavern Club, circa 1960.

But it’s also in the centre of modern Liverpool, which has transcended its working-class reputation, and still has many clear reminders that it was European cultural capital in 2008. Here is the home of the Tate Liverpool, northern England’s centre of modern art, and such development projects as the $1.7 billion Liverpool ONE shopping and leisure centre. Yet the city’s most famous cultural contribution is still the Fab Four.

Hard Days Night also has Bar Four, wallpapered with news clippings and Beatles-inspired artwork, with unique Beatle-esque cocktails. Next door is Blake’s Restaurant – named (as the more devout fans might guess) after Sir Peter Blake, the artist behind the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – where guests can dine on pigeon breast with beetroot and balsamic-coated root vegetable salad. As I said, not your typical theme hotel.

At Blake’s, diners are watched by photos of the many people on that album cover, all of whom inspired or influenced the Beatles.

Guests at Hard Days Night have already included everyone from Michael Buble to Mike Myers. Justin Bieber’s visit, somewhat fittingly, attracted so many screaming fans that the roads had to be closed. Liam Gallagher’s, however, was a relatively quiet affair, in which the Oasis frontman was both enthusiastic (no surprise) and very pleasant.

Downstairs, the hotel offers function rooms like Hari’s Bar, dedicated to George Harrison. The hotel also has a wedding studio, The Two of Us Room, used almost every week – and not just by Beatles fans. Even non-fans are willing to endure endless Lennon-McCartney ballads to stay here, hold their functions, or even get married. Like the very best songs, it’s simply a nice place to be.

The writer was a guest of Hard Days Night Hotel, with the assistance of Visit Liverpool.TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE

Hard Days Night Hotel is in Central Buildings, North John Street, a 10-minute drive from Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport, just over a kilometre from James Street railway station.

HOW MUCH

Rooms range from about $130 (single “luxury room”) to $1580 in peak time for the Lennon Suite (with grand piano, and $300 more than the McCartney Suite). Phone + 44 20 7836 4343, email [email protected]南京夜网.

SEE + DO

Hotel taxi tour is a treat for Beatles tragics. More expensive than the Magical Mystery Tour bus, it goes into more depth, from all of their childhood homes to Eleanor Rigby’s grave.

MORE INFORMATION

harddaysnighthotel南京夜网;

visitliverpool南京夜网.

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Floating through Provence

Provence: The town of Vienne on the Rhone south of Lyons Photo: . Picturesque: The mediaeval fortified village of Les-Baux-de-Provence
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Avignon’s famous bridge from the water.

Service: The river cruiser AmaDagio?s welcoming party

We’re not the first eager Francophiles to visit Provence and we certainly won’t be the last. Foreigners have been invading for centuries. The Greeks planted grapevines there in 600BC; the Romans gave Provence its name and stayed for about 700 years; seven popes deserted Rome for Avignon; artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne made it their home – and English writer Peter Mayle’s best-selling 1989 book A Year in Provence attracted truckloads of Brits looking for their rural French idyll.

Our river cruise on board APT’s AmaDagio, heading north on the Rhone, started in Arles and finished in Lyon. I still can’t believe how much ground (or water) we covered in a mere seven days, although the pace never felt hurried. I could have happily stayed in Arles for a week, but a night and day had to suffice. This is where Van Gogh stayed in hospital (now an art museum) before he was shipped off to the nearby St Paul de Mausole asylum, where he produced some of his most famous paintings. It is a fascinating, if haunting, place to visit.

The market at Arles on a sunny autumn Saturday is a visual feast. Mouthwatering Provencal goods such as olives, olive oils, nuts, fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, cheeses (fromage sounds so much more appetising), nougat, meat and fish are displayed on colourfully artistic stalls; live rabbits and ducks in cages await their future.

Bullfights are still held in the 20,000-seat Roman amphitheatre and there are impressive Roman monuments and ruins throughout Provence. The Pont du Gard, 21 kilometres from Avignon – our second port of call – is a magnificent example of Roman design and engineering. The three-level, 50-metre-high aqueduct bridge took 15 years to build in the first century AD and over 2000 years it has withstood earthquakes, wild weather and even bombing in 1944. Contemporary builders might appreciate the recipe for the mortar, which was made with pig fat and figtree sap.

The living history lesson continues with a visit to the beautifully preserved Renaissance town of Uzes – Mick Jagger once had a house nearby but that was just last century – and a night-time guided walk through Viviers. Local actors in medieval costume told the story of the philandering Huguenot captain who was responsible for building the 16th-century facade of the grand Maison des Chevaliers.

There is a very good choice of shore excursions from AmaDagio, orchestrated by our tireless cruise director Anja. One of my favourites was to a truffle farm in the Rhone Valley near Grignan, yet another impossibly picturesque mountain village surrounded by lavender fields, orchards and olive groves.

Domaine Bramarel is run by Gilles Ayme, whose great-grandfather established the farm in 1850. Gilles talks us through the growing cycles of Tuber Melanosporum, which is known as the “black diamond” because of the €1000 a kilo price it commands.

Two happy honey-coloured female Labradors give a demonstration of truffle-hunting and come up with a few samples of the autumn variety, which are not as valuable as the black winter ones but it’s just lovely seeing the dogs in action and obeying orders in French and English. Our group was then treated to a generous tasting of the black diamonds – very pungent – washed down with a crisp rose from a local vineyard.

Other foodie highlights of the shore tours were visits to a goat farm in the Ardeche Verte and a saffron farmlet in the Isere district, near Lyon. Both businesses are owned and operated by women, who share their specialised knowledge with charm and enthusiasm. The adorable alpine goats, which were all due to give birth the following day, tolerated us photographing them and were probably very relieved when we moved on to tasting Geraldine Cognet’s superb home-made chestnut cake and quince paste in the peaceful garden of her farmhouse.

Stephanie Sable runs one of just a few hundred saffron farms in France – Iran is still the world’s major producer of the “red gold”. Saffron sells for about €32,000 a kilo, totally eclipsing the prices even for the white Italian truffle (about €3000 a kilo). It’s a one-person, highly labour-intensive business, although she says she has help from her farming neighbours during the brief picking season.

Following Stephanie’s informative talk, she invited us to her rustic home where we tasted exquisite jams, chutneys and mustards that she makes from local organically produced fruit and spices when she’s not working on her saffron plot.

Excellent food, fine wines and good fun are also integral to the experience on board AmaDagio. Head chef Jozsef Kovacs has worked with the cruise line for eight years and he and his team of eight create dishes that reflect the regions we cruise through. Jozsef’s soups and desserts are a major highlight and fromage fans like me were seriously spoilt for choice every evening at dinner.

The crew is a tight-knit family and our very young French captain (all of 27) is extremely popular with the ladies. The officers put on a hilarious show one evening and certain passengers danced and partied hard until the wee small hours – is 65 now the new 25?

Lyon, our final port of call, is another eye-opener. Set at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers, it is France’s second-largest city after Paris and gives it a good run for its money. As with all the places we visited, I could have stayed there for days, but a joy of cruising is sampling a destination and returning later to savour it.

The writer travelled as a guest of APT and EmiratesEATING OUT IN LYON

Lyon is reputedly France’s “gastronomic capital’’. Treat yourself to at least one fabulous meal there. Celebrated chef Paul Bocuse’s three Michelin-starred l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, is near Lyon and he has four brasseries in Lyon: Le Nord, l’Est, Le Sud and l’Ouest – somewhat more affordable.

Then there are bouchons, small, informal brasseries that are a Lyon institution.

They serve regional dishes, particularly duck, pork and offal. There are about 20 bouchons officially certified by the Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons but many more in the style. To find a genuine bouchon check out en.lyon-france南京夜网.

Bon appetit!TRIP NOTES

CRUISING GROUNDS

AmaDagio operates seven-night cruises between Arles and Lyon on the Rhone River, and 14-night cruises between Arles and Amsterdam.

GETTING THERE

Emirates operates 82 flights a week to Dubai from Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Adelaide) with onward daily connections to London and Europe. Phone 1300 303 777, emirates南京夜网/au.

MORE INFORMATION

aptouring南京夜网.au; en.lyon-france南京夜网.

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