Wheels across the west
Western Australia will soon boast the world's longest off-road cycling trail. When completed, the Munda Biddi Trail will allow cyclists to tackle an epic 1000-kilometre corridor from Mundaring, east of Perth, to Albany in the south-west. Along the way, cyclists will pass through landscapes that vary from towering eucalypt forests to scenic river valleys. While the trail's official launch date hasn't been set and work on the last sector is continuing, the inaugural end-to-end ride (all spots are filled) will pedal off in early April, signalling the end of 12 years' construction work.
The trail is designed so cyclists can overnight in towns or the free purpose-built huts along the way. Those pressed for time can cover a few kilometres on one of many day rides, which range from easy to challenging. See mundabiddi.org.au.
Vote for the greens
More than a century ago, Canberra designers Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin envisaged an arboretum showcasing trees from all over the world, as part of Australia's new capital. In 2005, designers were selected to create the National Arboretum six kilometres from the city centre. In February, the 250-hectare site, featuring five self-guided walks, gardens and a visitors' centre with a design inspired by the fronds of a nearby Chilean wine palm forest, opened as part of Canberra's centenary celebrations.
The arboretum incorporates a stand of 5000 Himalayan cedars and 80-year-old cork oak, and more than 90 forests. Some species were chosen for seasonal colour and beauty, and others for their endangered conservation status, but all had to be able to withstand Canberra's winters.
It's also the new home for the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia (look out for Australian species used in the Japanese and Chinese art forms). A sculpted seven-hectare central valley includes ceremonial plantings by dignitaries, such as Denmark's Prince Frederik and Princess Mary, the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and Australia's Governor-General, Quentin Bryce. Open 6am-8.30pm daily during daylight saving; 7am-5.30pm daily the rest of the year. See nationalarboretum.act.gov.au.
Nothing like a Dame
Paris's famed Notre Dame Cathedral is celebrating its 850th anniversary with celebrations until late November. Already, the monument's stained-glass windows have been immortalised in a stamp series. Last weekend, nine new bells were inaugurated that re-create the sound of the 18th-century bells that were snatched during the French Revolution to be melted into cannon (the bells that replaced them were notoriously out of tune).
In early May, more than 850 concerts featuring Notre Dame repertoire will be played across five continents - including Australia - as part of World Organ Day. Australian venues include Bendigo's Sacred Heart Cathedral and Toorak Uniting Church. Notre Dame Cathedral also hosts a series of sacred-music concerts until December 10. See notredamedeparis2013.com.
Former French president Francois Mitterrand's private cook, whose story inspired the film Haute Cuisine, to be released in Australia in April, is the special guest at a Sydney dinner on March 4. Daniele Mazet-Delpeuch was whisked to the Elysee Palace from France's Perigord region when Mitterrand declared in 1988, "I want a woman from the country in my kitchen!" Her appointment ruffled the feathers of palace kitchen staff.
At the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, Mazet-Delpeuch will join forces with executive chef Boris Cuzon to create a presidential dinner: foie gras terrine with apple ginger chutney and cocoa nibs tuile, cabbage spectacularly stuffed and layered with salmon, and the classic dessert gateau, Saint-Honore. $149 a person, phone (02) 9228 9188, see sofitelsydney.com.au.
Go with the flow
For those who like returning from holidays with new skills, MasterChef winner Julie Goodwin will share cooking tips aboard a Murray River cruise departing on June 10. The four-night round-trip cruise from Mannum, South Australia, will include three cooking demonstrations by Goodwin, who will jump aboard paddle wheeler PS Murray Princess with her family. From $1299 a person, twin share; see captaincook.com.au.
Further north in South Australia, artist Leo Robba will lead painting expeditions during winter that use merino sheep property Moolooloo Station in the arid northern Flinders Ranges as a base. Departs on May 27, June 30 and July 7, $2895 a person; see worldexpeditions.com.
Bali insider's guide
The day of silence, fasting, meditation and self-reflection for the Balinese falls on March 12. The strictly observed holiday affects tourists, who must remain at their hotels. Denpasar airport will also be closed for the day.
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