May
31
2017

Californian dreaming on the road to Sonoma County

By California / United States /

SO you’ve flown into San Francisco, picked up your California car rental and not sure where to go? We say “not far at all” if you underline the words “Sonoma County” on your itinerary. We’ve tapped into the Sonoma County Tourism latest news to give you the lowdown on what makes it special, so read on.

Sonoma County

Located in Northern California just a 50km drive north of San Francisco, Sonoma County offers a blend of incredible scenery, urban sophistication, agriculture, small-town charm, outdoor adventure, and, of course, the food and wine that make this region famous. Sonoma County boasts more than 425 wineries, 100-plus organic farms, and 80km of stunning Pacific Ocean coastline.

Whether your goal is to savor food and wine pairings at renowned wineries, explore the more than 50 miles of spectacular Pacific coastline, picnic under towering redwood trees, shop unique local galleries and boutiques, or discover other Sonoma County delights, here are a few things you might want to know before visiting Sonoma Wine Country.

What to pack

Sonoma County’s moderate temperatures rarely dip below freezing, even in winter. The county typically gets about 25 to 30 inches of annual rainfall, mainly from November through April.

However, microclimates are part of what make Sonoma County such a great place to grow wine grapes, and some areas of the county can be much cooler, warmer, or windier than others. When the inland areas heat up in the summer, the coastal regions can remain cool. The weather can be changeable, and a chilly, foggy summer morning anywhere in the county can heat up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (or more) by 2pm.

It’s best to wear layers. Jeans, khakis or shorts, T-shirts, comfortable walking shoes, a sweater, and a medium-weight jacket are good for daytime sightseeing. Wine Country casual — like business casual, but with the laid-back, country feeling of a vineyard — is typical for evenings out.

Getting to Sonoma County

For those flying into other airports, Sonoma County is about 75 miles north of either San Francisco International (SFO) or Oakland International (OAK) airports, or about 120 miles west of Sacramento International (SMF). When traveling by car from San Francisco (and points south of there), cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head north on Highway 101. From Sacramento, go west on US-80, then west on Highway 12/121. From Seattle/Portland, go south on Highway 101 or US Interstate 5.

Visit a winery or ten

Home to more than 425 award-winning wineries, Sonoma County barrels a varietal for nearly every palate. Taste by region or varietal, tour vineyards, barrel rooms, and wine caves. Savor delicious food-and-wine pairings, or learn how to blend wine. “Sparkling” isn’t just about wine in Sonoma County. The area’s artisan breweries, cider houses and distilleries offer tours as well. Be as active or as laid back as you wish, Sonoma County has a winery experience that’s right for you.

Get outdoors

Stroll through ancient redwoods; or soar through the forest on a zip line. Hike remote trails through more than 60 state and regional nature parks. Paddle a canoe through various rivers, lakes, and even an ocean. Cycle backroads easy enough for a beginner or challenging enough for the pro cyclists who compete in Amgen Tour of California or the Gran Fondo. Golfers can tee off at one of 20-plus stunning courses. Go horseback riding, take a ride in a hot-air balloon, observe wildlife, or simply sit back and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Explore the coast

The stunning drive along Highway 1 unveils the rugged cliffs, pristine sand beaches, stunning vistas, whale watching, and small towns nestled along more than 50 miles of coastline. The area is dramatic, yet approachable. Trails and beaches beg travelers to stop and explore on foot. State and regional parks dot the coastline, tempting with hiking, beaches, fishing, camping, water sports, and horseback riding. Or simply relax at a beach for the day, enjoy a romantic picnic, or go all-out on a camping trip. While the coast is beautiful to explore at any time, be aware that the weather can turn windy or foggy any time of year, so always bring along a windbreaker and cap.

For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacounty.com or call +1-707-522-5800.

May
30
2017

Five food experiences worth the drive from Melbourne’s CBD

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

Food, glorious food. Melbourne is a melting pot hot spot of food experiences, many of which can be found in that easy to navigate CBD grid, but venture a little further afield and there are unforgettable tasty treats off the yellow brick road to enjoy. Grab a Melbourne car rental and try these five:

#1 La Sala restaurant at Olivigna, South Warrandyte

The drive … (from CBD) 45-50 minutes north-east

The rolling hills of Warrandyte is welcome sight for those escaping the urban jungle for a leafy green village with a river running through it. The Tuscan-like atmosphere of beautiful Olivigna (pictured) in the southern part of Warrandyte is highlighted by La Sala restaurant, the star of the show. Outside is the stunning piazza, a place to breathe in the freshest Green Wedge air and soak up the views while sharing a pizza and Rose. Nearby eye candy comes with lemon trees and olive grove, a vineyard, horses grazing in the background like a painting while often the resident kangaroos can arrive seemingly on call for diners to really appreciate the views beyond the glass windows at La Sala. Inside a spacious dining room is a polished update on traditional Italian design, with chandeliers, mudstone fireplace and walls lined with mesmerizing large black and white photographs that blend in with the sounds of clinking cutlery and social chatter; it gets noisy here but that only lends it the charm of happy people enjoying their outing. The seasonal menu is irresistible.

#2 Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

The drive …  two hours west

This one’s a “two hatter” courtesy of the Age Good Food Guide two years running and the Royal Mail Hotel Dining Room offers “nature-based cuisine focusing on the highest quality locally sourced produce” according to the Visit Victoria team. Menus are inspired by the hotel’s large organic garden and some stunning dishes are created. The signature dining experience? An eight course chef’s tasting menu with matched wines, is served every evening, as is a five course option. A two course and three course set menu is available Sunday to Thursday nights. The Dining Room is open for breakfast daily and lunch Wednesday to Sunday.

#3 Jack Rabbit, Bellarine

The drive … 90 minutes south-west

No, it’s not a play on great food haunts with animal names but it just so happens we’re following up a Pickled Pig with a Jack Rabbit. Jack Rabbit is an absolute winner on the Bellarine Peninsula with its stunning views across the bay to the You Yangs and Geelong, and its two venues – Jack Rabbit Restaurant, a showstopping gastronomical attraction with a sensational seasonal a la carte menu, while The House of Jack Rabbit is a step down for beaut lunches seven days a week.

#4 Pickled Pig, Warrnambool

The drive … a touch over two hours west

Victoria’s  regional fine dining scene is expanding by the year and this ripper is set on the seaside city of Warrnambool. Visit Victoria says chef Brenton Banner, who cut his teeth in the kitchen of Melbourne’s famous Press Club, brings his imagination and flair to Pickled Pig’s modern European menu, awarded a hat by The Age Good Food Guide. Treat yourself to a tasting menu or take your pick of the tempting a la carte options.

#5 Eleonore’s Restaurant, Yering

The drive … a touch over an hour east

Step it up in style at Eleonore Restaurant in the Yarra Valley, which combines a contemporary cuisine in an historic setting. The fine dining restaurant’s modern menu is lagely influenced by Asian flavours, manages to sit sublimely within the old-world surrounds of a 19th-century chateau.

SCOTT PODMORE

May
29
2017

Unforgettable Chicago restaurants while on the road in the US

By United States /

Chicago’s foodie scene is full of twists and surprises. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the Windy City treats you to another set of incredible Chicago restaurants to choose from.

Pick up a great Chicago Airport car hire deal and then choose from one of these five amazing Chicago restaurants for your next meal.

Alinea

Alinea (pictured) consistently rates at the top of food reviewers’ lists. It’s held the title of Best Restaurant in America a number of times. Many people also know Alinea for its innovative approach to modern cuisine. The venue features three distinct experiences. The Alinea Kitchen Table is the most intimate setting, giving your small group a private area to sample different flavours. There’s also The Gallery, which offers a multi-sensory 16 to 18-course menu. The Salon provides a 10-14 course tasting menu that’s sure to leave you more than satisfied

Bavette’s Bar and Boeuf

This amazing venue is a bit of a detour from what you’d consider your traditional steakhouse. It also serves as proof that you can enjoy top quality steakhouse meals in a dazzling venue. Bavette creates the perfect balance of French fine dining in a fun atmosphere. You’ll pick up a delicious ribeyes, seafood towers along with scrumptious homemade deserts. Then just add in some Jazz music, chandeliers and award-winning international wines and you have yourself a winner!

The Purple Pig

A top notch Mediterranean feast awaits at the Purple Pig. It’s one of the best Chicago restaurants you’ll come across. Rising Star Chef 2014 Jimmy Bannos Jn. is on the team, bringing years of knowledge handed down to him as a fourth generation restaurateur. Why not relax and order a glass of Greek Santorini, milk braised pork shoulder or a house made veal Mortadella sausage? Anything on this impressive menu will go down easily. It can be hard to find a set at this venue, although it’s well worth the wait.

Monteverde

Chef Sarah Grueneberg blends traditional Italian cuisine with influences from around the world. The Texan-born talent proudly creates food that is “soulfull, surprising and filled with storytelling.” She draws on her international travels to offer pasta, kraut, Japanese yellowtail and grilled Texas redfish all on the same menu! You’re spoiled with choice at Monteverde and the combinations are surprising. Not to mention, there’s an interesting story behind each and every dish.

May
22
2017

Winter festivals in Sydney and surrounds you can’t miss

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

Sydney is popular with the tourists in the summer months. But what many people don’t realise is that it can be a great place to stay even when the weather turns a little chilly.

Winter festivals and events in Sydney are some of the most exciting.

We strongly recommend you hire a car from Sydney Airport and make the most of the fun winter festivals on offer.

Sydney Winter Festival

30th June – 17th July
This is definitely one of the best winter festivals that Sydney offers. Every year St Mary’s Road turns into a hub for winter activities. The outdoor ice skating rink is always a favourite for festival-goers, even the uncoordinated ones! There’s also live music, tobogganing, pop up bars and European-style markets. Welcome to Sydney’s very own version of winter wonderland!

Bledisloe Cup Festival

9th August – 21st October
Rugby Union fans unite! Every year they get to enjoy 10 epic weeks of the best of Rugby Union. Witness one of the world’s greatest rivalries in sport as the Qantas Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks. The festival comes to a fiery end with the Bledisloe Cup test match at ANZ Stadium. Thousands of crowds pack the venue to watch their national teams, regardless of whether it’s rain, hail or shine.

Sydney Film Festival

7th – 18th June
Winter is the perfect time to put on your most comfy clothes, sit around the house with a blanket and watch movies all day long. People love to watch movies when the cold sets in. No wonder someone thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a week and a half of winter to a festival for film! Watch feature films, documentaries, short films and animations from around the world. They’re screened at different venues across the city.

Vivid Sydney

26th May – 17th June
This annual outdoor lighting festival really brings Australia’s most populated city to life. Check out the incredible light installations and 3D projections across central Sydney. You’ll enjoy three weeks of colourful and interactive displays. Watch landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House light up. The creativity never stops and every year is different.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

May
17
2017

Mornington Peninsula in winter and where to stay and play

By Victoria /

The beautiful Mornington Peninsula is an incredible destination at any time of year, even during winter. When the mercury drops the beaches become quieter and the towns have more of a country charm.

Hire a car from Melbourne Airport and drive an hour and a half south west of the city. You’ll discover a stretch of magnificent coast and countryside that you won’t take for granted.

Here are five places where you can stay or have fun on the Mornington Peninsula.

Peninsula Hot Springs

The famous Peninsula Hot Springs will help you slow right down and relax. These naturally heated geothermal hot springs make for the number one attraction along the Mornington Peninsula. Indulge with massages, facials and other body treatments. There’s also a gorgeous hill top pool where you panoramic views of the countryside. After a couple of hours here you’ll feel a million bucks.

Enchanted Adventure Garden

Grab the kids and head to this exciting outdoor wonderland. You’ll need at least a couple of hours to explore this place. It’s great for thrill seekers, especially those who are up for a challenge. Bush obstacle courses await, ready to test you at every turn. There’s also an intricate maze to navigate your way through. It’s definitely no easy feat. Not to mention the fun to be had while tree surfing.

McCrae Homestead

Victoria’s oldest and original house was built in 1844. It belonged to the McCrae family, which was one of the six pioneer families on the Mornington Peninsular. There’s a lot of history to explore here as you step back in time. Take a guided tour to explore the historic furniture and artwork on site as you also learn about the hardships the first residents faced. Comfortable and stylish accommodation is also available for those seeking a unique experience.

Morning Star Estate

Stay in one the Guest House’s charming but affordable rooms or spa suite. This hidden gem boasts impressive architecture and beautiful views of Port Phillip Bay. The gardens are kept in an impeccable condition, with more than 75,000 roses. The heritage building also has a cellar where you can sample and buy some of the finest local wines in the region.

Mornington Peninsula’s Glass Blowers

Venice may be world-famous for glass blowing. But this little hot glass studio in county Victoria is also something to talk about. The gallery is home to the work of two of Australia’s most talented glassblowers, Eileen Gordon and Grant Donaldson. The husband and wife team create colourful artwork in a variety of different shapes. They put on demonstrations every day so you can watch them action. Afterwards you can purchase their fabulous creations.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

May
16
2017

New York events: the 6 big ticket events you can’t miss

By New York / United States /

Most people know of New York as the city of love. People travel from all over the world to begin their adventures in the Big Apple. But it’s also worth nothing New York events are so spectacular that you’ll probably come across a festival no matter what time of year you visit.

Hire a car from JFK Airport and start ticking off these New York events.

(Here’s a tip, plan parking for your New York events in NYC in advance!)

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year. In Manhattan, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been tradition for nearly a century. Millions of people pack the streets to watch famous singers, Broadway performers, floats and marching bands.

The US Open

It’s the country’s biggest tennis tournament and as far as New York events go, it’s should be high on your list. The Grand Slam event sees the world’s best players converge on New York between August and September. At the same time you’ll also find the globe’s maddest tennis fans.

New Year’s Eve at Times Square

There’s nothing like NYE, when people all over the world come together to celebrate the same thing; a fresh beginning. Why not celebrate it at one of America’s most iconic sites? There are dazzling lights, music and an incredible atmosphere as the crowd waits for the clock to strike midnight.

NYC Marathon

It’s not like other marathons. Nearly 50,000 people begin their run at Staten Island and cross the finish line in Central Park. No other marathon takes you past so many iconic attractions, with millions tuning in to watch runners take over New York.

Rockefeller Centre Tree Lighting

This is a worldwide symbol of the beginning of the Christmas holidays. Be among the thousands of people who watch the a mammoth Christmas tree be lit in late November. Live performances at Rockefeller Plaza follow, while the glorious tree remains on display until early January.

Rochester International Jazz Festival

Every June sees people from all walks of life come together, unified by their love for jazz. Drive five and a half hours north west of NYC to see the city’s main road transform into “Jazz Street”. Some truly amazing talent make this festival an incredible event.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

May
15
2017

Campervan favourites in Byron Bay and surrounds

By Australia / New South Wales /

Byron Bay is world-famous for its stunning surf beaches and outdoor activities. Whether you want to relax by the beach, dine in front of a gorgeous sunset backdrop, or go on a family adventure, Bryon Bay has it all.

Are you travelling with a family and trying to keep your holiday on the cheaper side? The best way to do it is to hire a campervan from Brisbane Airport and drive two hours south to get there.

Here are five great places to stay if you’re looking for campervan accommodation in Byron.

BIG4 Byron Holiday Park

Imagine parking your campervan right next to one of the area’s most gorgeous beaches. This BIG4 park is spacious, has direct access to Tallow Beach and is just five minutes from the Heart of Byron Bay. It’s a great family atmosphere here. Better yet, there are private ensuite bathrooms available if your campervan doesn’t have those facilities.

Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park

Suffolk is one of the region’s most popular holiday parks. You only need to spend a few minutes here to understand why. The location is the first advantage – it’s another great park right next to the beach. Being 10 minutes out of town, it’s also close enough to the centre of town while allowing you to avoid the hustle and bustle. You can even bring your pets along to stay here.

Byron Bay’s Glen Villa Resort

Less than half a kilometre from Byron’s CBD is the lovely Glen Villa Resort. It has powered and unpowered caravanning sites as is within walking distance to Belongil Beach. The resort also has an outdoor saltwater pool and hot tub. Not to mention all the other amenities you’d expect such as BBQs, kitchen and laundry facilities. This resort has everything you need plus more!

North Coast Holiday Parks Terrace Reserve

On the banks of the peaceful Simpsons Creek you’ll discover a blissful paradise, otherwise known as North Coast Holiday Parks Terrace Reserve. This multi award-winning holiday park is surrounded by natural bush and wildlife. The lovely Clarkes Beach is only a short stroll away, while you have modern facilities, like camp kitchens, at your fingertips. You’ll also have access to free WiFi.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

May
12
2017

Athens: 5 things to do in Greece’s capital and surrounds

By Europe /

Athens has one of the longest histories in the world. Over the centuries, different conquerors have taken control of Greece’s capital, with each leaving their own impression on the city.

Today it’s one of Europe’s prime tourist destinations, which reels in 4.5 million tourists every year. The best way to explore this vibrant place starts with finding a hire car from Athens Airport. Once you have that, get set for an ultimate adventure and check out these attractions!

The jewel of Athens: the Acropolis

Marvel at what’s considered to be Greece’s crowning glory. The “high city” dominates the Athens skyline and is an absolute masterpiece. Ancient structures like the Temple of Athena Nike and the fifth century BC temple ruins of the Parthenon make for a true reminder of the country’s Golden Age. But most of all the views from the summit are well worth a steep climb to the top.

Lake Vouliagmeni

If you’re feeling up for a drive then detour about 45 minutes south of Athens. You’ll discover the magnificent Lake Vouliagmeni, which sits beneath the remains of a limestone cavern. The water temperature is usually around 25 degrees Celsius, making it a great place to swim year-round. Find your little slice of heaven by the tranquil water.

Plaka district

It’s touted as one of the city’s most attractive districts. Plaka is also right under the slopes of the magnificent Acropolis and Greek literature references it as “the neighbourhood of the Gods”. There are neoclassical mansions to admire, small winding roads, quaint balconies and gorgeous flowers. It’s a special place where you can enjoy a bite to eat and also pick up souvenirs.

Monastiraki Flea Market

Athens is home to many markets but Monastiraki Flea Market should be the one at the top of your list. It’s a traditional market, with modern souvenir stalls, antique shops and collectables stores. Locals will also gladly entice you to buy their jewellery, crafts and other unique goods.

Mount Lycabettus

At 277 metres high, the Mount Lycabettus summit is the highest in the city. Its mighty limestone peaks rise from a pine tree forest in a fairly flat cityscape. From the top you can gaze upon the ancient temples and the gorgeous Aegean Sea. If you start your climb from Aristippou Street, take the zigzagging paths for around 20 minutes to get to the top. However, for those wanting a more relaxing option, it’s probably better to take the cable railway.

BRIANNA PIAZZA