TO CATCH A TEA LEAF
AFTER a dehydrating spell in the tropics, it has been a busy week for DepartureLounge , catching up on industry news. So many comings and goings and hotel openings, in fact, that while a good lie-down has been out of the question during daylight hours, a bracing cup of tea or three has been welcome.
There are few better Sydney venues for a proper pot of well-poured tea, served with crustless sandwiches and warm scones, than the Observatory Hotel at The Rocks.
In the hotel’s very civilised Globe Bar, a haven of leather armchairs and sinkinto sofas, afternoon tea (daily from 2.30pm to 5pm) costs $39 and, for an additional $10, tea-takers can perk up proceedings with a flute of Moet & Chandon rose.
Lounge wisely decided to remain unperked while chatting with the Observatory’s suave young tea master Tjok Gde Kerthyasa who has created a menu of 20 blends, from a superior earl grey with cornflower blossoms and a firstflush darjeeling to a range of green and floral teas.
Kerthyasa, who runs regular tea appreciation classes, describes teataking as a ‘‘ a very spiritual experience’’ but he is not as earnest as he may sound and approves of the wisdom and fun of reading the leaves.
His colleague, Lindel Barker-Revell, presides over Mystic Afternoon Teas at the Globe Bar, peering into drained cups and revealing all in 20-minute personalised readings. These tea sessions and classes are very popular; do book. (02) 9256 2215; www.observatoryhotel.com.au. ■ LOUNGE does not require BarkerRevell’s assistance to divine news of a host of hotel openings. Caitlin O’Loan of Orient-Express Hotels (which runs the Observatory) is full of info about the group’s expansion, including the purchase of an estate in Buzios, 180km northeast of Rio de Janeiro. This development will include 17 villas and the original owner’s beach house is to be preserved as part of the deal.
O’Loan says Buzios has a reputation as ‘‘ the St Tropez of South America’’ and the international set that flocks there includes a host of celebs.
Also in Brazil, Orient-Express Hotels owns the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio and is expected to soon finalise a contract to run the renowned Hotel Cataratas (where an over-perked Lounge once lost her swimsuit) at Iguassu Falls. And there’s an additional itinerary about to launch on the terrific Eastern & Oriental Express; for the first time, passengers will visit Laos on a variation of the train’s popular Thailand itineraries. www.orient-express.com. ■ AS a rather keen fan of India, Lounge is all ears at news that Conservation Corporation Africa, which has more than 40 grand safari camps and lodges throughout Africa, has branched into the subcontinent with two lodges and another pair on the way. Travellers can view wildlife for as little as $35 a night at government-run lodges in India, but the CC Africa experience is rather different and, as you may expect, comes with a slightly larger price tag (from about $460 a night, all-inclusive).
CC Africa’s marketing director Nicky Fitzgerald tells Travel&Indulgence ’ s Barry Oliver that the company’s staff roll covers 60 tribes, plus a lone Australian. Apparently hospitality manager Geoff O’Grady from Perth turned up for his interview in Johannesburg sporting a fetching earring and long, curly hair.
Fitzgerald wasn’t impressed and told him so. The next day O’Grady returned, minus locks and jewellery.
‘‘ What else could I do but give him a job?’’ she says. It proved a smart move. The exuberant Aussie is apparently a big hit with guests. And he has settled into life in the bush so well he’s about to marry a local. ‘‘ Australia’s not having him back,’’ says Fitzgerald in her nononsense South African accent. www.ccafrica.com. ■ ALSO meeting Lounge over a cuppa, Vicky Gonda and Tanya Oziel of the Israel Travel Centre, based at Jetset Tours in Sydney’s Rose Bay, are full of news of an Anzac Day and Beersheba Commemoration Israel Tour from April 24 to May 4.
The tour is centred on the battlefields of Beersheba and the 90th anniversary of the October 1917 Australian Light Horse landmark battle — the regiment’s greatest charge — plus an unveiling ceremony of a sculpture in honour of the 4th and 12th Light Horse regiments.
There’s ample sightseeing in Israel, too, and participation in a dawn service on Anzac Day at Mt Scopus in Jerusalem. Add air fares to the $1675 (twin share) price tag; with the exception of lunches, that is pretty much all-inclusive.
Gonda and Oziel are promoting goodvalue tours to Bhutan and India, too, all with a high degree of personalised care and special inclusions. (02) 9371 8166; www.israeltravelcentre.com.au. ■ ANOTHER New Zealand luxury lodge will open in November. Public relations consultant Betsy Pie has stopped by Lounge ’ s increasingly tea-swilled office to talk about The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, a 24-room property to be opened by Julian and Josie Robertson of Kauri Cliffs Lodge & Golf Course fame. The latest lodge is in the Hawke’s Bay region of the North Island and it seems to have all the ingredients of success: a links-style golf course, plenty of activities on call, supreme comfort and easy access to a great wine region. www.capekidnappers.com. ■ ALSO across the tea table: Lisa Low on a flying visit to Sydney from Shanghai where she’s in charge of public relations at the Four Seasons. The hotel has two initiatives that have caught Lounge ’ s eye: mini-beds for juniors (cut-down versions of the plush numbers enjoyed by grown-up guests) and a Men Don’t Get It shopping package.
The latter involves a concierge shopping service for gals; there’s oodles of insider info on where to shop, spa and hang out in style.
All without the aid of jasmine tea leaf consultation, Lounge presumes. www.fourseasons.com. ■ FIND of the week: The latest in the clever Deck of Secrets range from Michelle Matthews is Day Trip Secrets: Brisbane ($9.95), a pack of cards detailing 52 attractions and activities in and around the Queensland capital. www.shoppingsecrets.com. ■ LOUNGE loves: Lapsang souchong tea from the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian province in China, as served at the Globe Bar. ■ LOUNGE loathes: The sorry lack of a personal tea master.