Noma to Margaret River
Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck and Dinner fame and the Danish forager Rene Redzepi, whose Noma eatery was recently ranked world's No.1 restaurant for the third time, are signing up for the inaugural Margaret River Gourmet Escape food and wine festival. Leeuwin Estate Winery is a base for the four-day festival, from November 22-25.
Masterclasses, pop-up restaurants, cooking demonstrations, wine theatre, wine-matching programs, meet-the-winemaker sessions, music and plenty of the state's best drops will be available.
Other events include a beach barbecue and a long-table lunch. Ticket details will be available next month. See gourmetescape.com.au.
The Qantas look
Designer Peter Morrissey's boomerang-print Qantas uniforms are being replaced in 2014. Australian-born, Paris-based designer Martin Grant is talking to Qantas staff about their workwear and will work with the company's "uniform panel".
The uniform has been redesigned nine times since 1959, including by Pucci (1974-85), Yves Saint Laurent (1986-94) and George Gross and Harry Who (1994-2003).
NZ's starry nights
More than 4144 square kilometres of New Zealand's South Island, covering Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park and Mackenzie Basin, have been certified an International Dark Sky Reserve. For amateur astronomers, that means exceptionally little light pollution, making it one of the best places on the planet from which to star-gaze. The exclusive dark sky club includes Exmoor National Park in England, NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia and The Reserve at Mont-Megantic in Quebec. See darksky.org.
Sidetracked in Oman
With many European-bound Australians flying via Abu Dhabi or Dubai, Oman is smartly marketing itself as an easy side trip (a one-hour flight) from those Middle East hubs. The sultanate has launched a website featuring decidedly non-slick, documentary-style video instalments that show off its best assets: ancient forts and souks, unspoilt deserts and wadis, date palm plantations, dolphins and green turtles, and the renowned warmth and hospitality of Omanis.
Follow the videos around the country and the site then formulates an itinerary and suggests a travel agent. See sidetripofalifetime.com.au.
Park and ride
Summer traffic snarls are a common sight in Yosemite National Park in the US, where it's not unusual for thousands of motorists to be stuck in their cars for up to three hours as they try to squeeze into the famed Yosemite Valley, home to those photogenic hunks of granite Half Dome and El Capitan.
Ranger Scott Gediman says part of the problem is that "we're so tied to our cars. Everyone thinks, 'Oh, I can't have a cooler and I can't bring food' if I'm not in my car. Psychologically, people don't want to get on a bus."
But that's exactly what the park wants its summer visitors to do - to ease congestion and all-round stress. This northern summer, Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System expands its service from Merced (travelling via Mariposa) and from Mammoth Lakes and starts a service from Sonora.
Mariposa has trolley-wagon rides through its historic downtown, Oakhurst; Mariposa and Tuolumne County will host Yosemite Park rangers at its visitor centres, and Mono County is hosting park rangers at the Mono Basin Visitor Centre. Once in the valley, car-free visitors can use free shuttle buses.
Gediman is also encouraging visitors to explore beyond the glacially carved Yosemite Valley by visiting Glacier Point, which provides a bird's-eye view of the valley floor below, and Mariposa Grove, home to about 500 mature giant sequoia trees. See www.yarts.com.
Local knowledge pays dividends
Visitors to South Korea can bunk in a home-stay, thanks to a new website. Koreastay, endorsed by the Korea Tourism Organisation, offers travellers the chance to experience an authentic way of life, try local foods and take part in local traditions and games.
The website covers areas from the capital, Seoul, to the island of Jeju-do, known for its beaches and rich cultural history.
Host families close to tourist areas will provide some home-cooked meals and information on local highlights. Homes are assessed for cleanliness and location before being listed.
Stays cost from $30 a night. See english.visitkorea.or.kr/koreastay.
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