The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

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.ob­ser­va­to­ry­ho­ ■ 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-ex­ ■ 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. ■ 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;­rael­trav­el­cen­ ■ 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.capekid­nap­ ■ 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.foursea­ ■ 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.­pingse­ ■ 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.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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