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Glamping in Australia’s Red Centre: A Stay at Longitude 131

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One of the luxury tented accommodations at Longitude 131

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been on my list of places to visit for years. Last month I finally got my chance to visit Australia’s Red Centre, with a few nights at Longitude 131. With a reputation for being the finest accommodations in Outback glamping, Longitude 131 doesn’t come cheap. My husband and I tried to maximize our bang for the buck by staying one less than the recommended three nights/four full days, and attempting to see as much as we could during our time.


First glimpse of Uluru HyperLapse (shot on iPhone 6)

The cranked up pace was a bit too crammed for me. While I totally enjoyed my time, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so hurried. I also had a difficult time with jet lag on this trip, which did not help the situation.

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Some of the stunning scenery seen on excursions from Longitude 131

My hotel review posts usually feature lots of images of hotel room interiors and bathroom amenities, but photographing the room did not happen during my brief stay at Longitude 131.

Fortunately Longitude 131’s own website photos are very realistic. The tents are glamorous and comfortable, but we did not spend much time there other than to sleep or change clothes. The bulk of your day at Longitude 131 is spent exploring nearby Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which was the point of the whole trip anyway!

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My first glimpse of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock

We had about 35 minutes from the time we arrived at the Longitude 131 until we headed out for our first excursion, the Mala Walk around the base of Uluru,  followed by a sundowner and light bites in the Kantu Gorge.

The guides at Longitude 131 are friendly and great and I felt that I learned a ton on this excursion. The couple I met from Sydney who were staying the recommended three days seemed more relaxed than I was (and less jet lagged).

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Left: sunrise at a viewing area in Kata Tjuta National Park Right: My room at Longitude 131

Both my husband and I were tired when we returned from this excursion, so we skipped the formal dinner service and headed straight to our tent.

I fell asleep immediately and woke up in time for a quick bite before heading out for our next excursion, headed to a sunrise view point in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Kata Tjuta range (also known as the Olgas) domes are visually interesting, and the sky and scrubby landscape looked gorgeous in the soft morning light.

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Gorgeous desert landscape and clouds at Kata Tjuta

After admiring the sunrise at Kata Tjutas we headed out on the lovely Valley of Winds hike , which can range 6-10 km around a sacred Anangu men’s site in the domes of Kata Tjuta. We finished our hike just before the day got too hot. The only thing missing was a cold beer before we headed  to the Cultural Centre in the park for a visit. Then we got back to Longitude 131 in time for lunch.

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A view of the Kata Tjutas at sunrise

Our day finished with the Uluru sunset excursion (again complete with cocktails and nibbles). It was a delightful day. Dinner that evening was served at outdoors under the star filled skies at Table 131 set up outside. Once again, jet lag made me decide to skip the main course and get as much sleep as I could.

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A vibrant sunset view of Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Your days are paced similarly to those on safari at Longitude 131– most activities happen around sunrise and sunset leaving the hottest hours in the middle of the day free for you to enjoy the resorts lovely pool, the nearby Cultural Centre in the park or even arrange a camel ride or motorcycle ride. Unlike being on safari, you come to Longitude 131 for the landscape and outdoor activities, not for the wildlife. You might see some wild camels or feral cats, but this is not the place for those who want a game viewing experience.

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Yummy steak for lunch at Longitude 131

All the food and beverages at Longitude 131 were excellent.

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Left: Pasta with shrimp for lunch Right: a colorful salad with edible flower at Longitude 131

While I did not eat every dinner I was totally satisfied by the appetizers served during the sundown excursions and did not feel I needed much more.

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 Glacial toothfish and broccolini for lunch at Longitude 131

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A stunning sunset view of  Longitude 131 Resort

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Rainbows in the bathroom at Longitude 131

My Longitude 131 experience was very good. I made the decision to do a shorter, more concentrated trip and I’m not sure I’d recommend that unless you are 100% over jet lag or the sort of person who loves having every minute scheduled.

I was impressed with my experience enough that I am now curious about other Baillie Lodges and am considering a visit to Kangaroo Island on my next trip down under.

Longitude 131

Yulara Drive,
Yulara Northern Territory 0872,  Australia
Tel: +61 08 8957 7131
Fax: +61 08 8957 7130

Luxury tent rate is $1,200 AUD per person, per night including all dining, open bar with premium wines and spirits, in-suite bar, signature experiences, and return Ayers Rock Airport transfers.
My trip was booked through Suzy Xiu at SmartFlyer.

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Where to Eat in Sydney: Mr. Wong For Dim Sum

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The house special: pork and asparagus wontons

Sydney is one of my favorite cities to visit and I always enjoy checking out the food scene when I’m there. But unlike New York or LA where reservations are essential if you want to dine a hot foodie spot, many of Sydney’s of-the-moment restaurants don’t take reservations at dinner. The last thing I want to do when I’m traveling is wait in a line for over an hour for a meal.

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Solo diners can eat at the counter at Mr. Wong

Fortunately, Jonathan Fambart, the amazing concierge at the Park Hyatt Sydney, pointed out that many of these same restaurants do take reservations for lunch. So my husband and I switched our plans to make lunch the primary meal of the day. Jonathan got us a table at Mr. Wong, the contemporary Chinese restaurant run by the Merivale group.

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Craft cocktails at Mr. Wong focus on Shochu and fresh ingredients

While we had a table reserved, we opted to eat at the bar downstairs because it was slightly quieter. This is not a restaurant for serious conversation, as the brick walls and loft-like space make it rather loud. I started with a Yin martini made with shochu, vodke, Aperol, apricot brandy and fresh peach. It was not overly sweet and not Mad Men-strong, making it a nice choice for lunch.

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Dim sum being prepared in the kitchen at Mr. Wong

Dim sum is only available at lunch, and we ordered a few different things to share. I very much enjoyed the pork and prawn shumai (AUS $12). The duck spring rolls (AUS $12) were also a nice alternative to an entire Peking Duck.

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The oysters at Mr. Wong go for AUS $4 per piece

My husband very much enjoyed his rock oysters served drizzled with a ginger rice wine vinaigrette.

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Duck Spring Rolls at Mr. Wong

There are also a wide variety of roast meats and live seafood on the menu at Mr. Wong, should you be in the mood for mud crab, rock lobster or a whole roast duck.

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The Yin Martini at Mr. Wong

The atmosphere is stylish and the Central Business District location make Mr. Wong a popular spot for business lunches as well as dinners.

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The decor is Cantonese contemporary chic

The standout dish of the meal was the special pork and asparagus wontons (I can’t remember the price). They were exceptional and had the right amount of smokiness and heat. I was expecting the duck to the highlight of the meal but I can’t stop thinking about those wontons!

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The downstairs dining room and bar at Mr. Wong

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Mr. Wong exterior tucked away on Bridge Lane

If you don’t want to wait for a table for dinner, head to Mr. Wong for lunch. The pork & asparagus wontons are not to be missed.

Mr. Wong

Address: 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Phone:+61 2 9240 3000

Hours:

LUNCH Mon – Sun 12:00pm – 3:00pm
DINNER Mon – Wed 5:30pm – 11:00pm
Thurs – Sat 5:30pm – 12:00am
Sun 5:30pm – 10:00pm
YUM CHA Sat – Sun 10:30am – 12:00pm

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#shotoniPhone6 Elephant Spotting

Editor’s Note: This post deviates from the blog’s usual format by using photos only by other photographers. It made sense in this post. – Jen

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Ryan Vaarsi took this photo of me taking an obligatory selfie with my #shotonIphone6 elephant in NYC

I am incredibly honored to be one of the photographers whose work is featured in Apple’s World Gallery and #shotoniPhone6 Global Campaign. The World Gallery spans across 70 cities in 24 countries and features iPhone users of all professions, ages and cultures. This initiative’s geographical scale makes it the largest mobile photography gallery ever assembled. These images are being featured posted on various Apple channels, outdoor billboards, print publications, as well as Apple.com.

Last week I got to cross paths with my Namibian elephant on the ACE line of the New York City subway, where World Gallery ads line the corridor from Times Square to Port Authority. I brought along my friend, fellow photographer Ryan Vaarsi to document the occasion.

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 Having a Carrie Bradshaw moment in the NYC subway (photo credit: Ryan Vaarsi)

All the iPhone photographs featured in Apple’s World Gallery and #shotoniPhone6 campaign were found because they were published on line by the photographers.

When I started this blog, I did it to open doors to new and more interesting experiences. But I also did it to push myself to take better photos and explore more of the world. Never would I have thought that might lead to having an image I shot of a Namibian elephant wind up on in an ad for Apple that has been spotted on subway transit ads in Bangkok, New York, Montreal and London.

My life’s a trip that way.

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Passerby on smartphone in front of #ShotoniPhone6 ad (photo credit: Ryan Vaarsi)

I realize I have my blog readers to thank. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know if I would get to be a part of this incredible campaign. So…

Thank you very much blog readers! You keep me inspired and I am grateful for you everyday.

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My #shotoniPhone6 elephant on Bangkok’s skytrain (photo credit @Kangg)

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Where to Eat in Milan: Unico Milano

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The view from the terrace at Unico

Here’s the thing about dining at restaurants with Michelin stars… you don’t fill up from what you order.  You get full by eating all the interim courses that come in between. Chef Fabio Baldassarre’s Unico Milano is no exception. Located on the at 20th floor of the WJC Tower, Unico comes with sweeping views overlooking an industrial suburb of the city.

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Unico Milano’s Dinner Menu

Unico’s tasting menus run 90 Euros for four course or 120 Euros for six courses. Tasting menus are for the whole table. If you prefer, ordering a la carte is also an option.  We went for the four courses, which felt more like 8 after the amuse bouche, pre-dessert and palate cleansing snacks in between.

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 This tortellini was delicious and creamy

The meal started with venison carpaccio served with blueberries, tassel hyacinths, sour cream and shock of cold foie gras ice cream. It was interesting but venison isn’t my protein of choice. I was delighted by the bonus course that wasn’t fully described to me but was served in an egg with a light sprinkling of caviar.

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Left: venison carpaccio Right: veal cheek casserole

The second course was the standout for me: house made fresh chick pea tortellini pasta served with red prawn, buffalo mozzarella mousse and black truffle. If ordering a la carte, I would have ordered this dish for my entree for Euro 28 and skipped the veal entirely.

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One of the courses between courses, featuring caviar in a delicate egg mousse

I was underwhelmed by the veal cheek casserole made with celeriac cream and artichokes. It wasn’t appealing visually and the texture was off-putting. Service as top notch and sweeping as one would expect at a Michelin starred restaurant, and there is an excellent wine list. But the atmosphere is cold and non-romantic.

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Hazelnut Sablè for dessert

For dessert, we were served hazelnut sablè, with dark chocolate cream and mango ice cream, It was not overly sweet and delicious although a bit cold for a winter’s night.

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The dining room at Unico Milano

In a city filled with charming views and great food, I don’t think Unico Milano is worth the 20 minute taxi ride from the city center. It’s better suited for business meals on expense accounts for foodies already in the Portello Area.

Unico Milano

Address: Viale Achille Papa 30

20149 Milano, Italy

Pnone:+39 02 392 148 47

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Because Eataly: a Photo Essay of a Foodie Heaven in Milan

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 Looking down at the produce at Eataly Milan Smeraldo

I recently spent a few days in Milan, Italy. One of the highlights of my trip to the Italian fashion capital was stumbling upon a huge and gleaming Eataly.

Artichokes at Eataly Milan 

The gourmet grocery store and community concept was created by Italian entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti and is backed by some of my foodie heroes–  Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.

Scenes from the produce aisle at Eataly

Part of Eataly’s manifesto is “providing the best possible products at a reasonable price point.” While I did not comparison shop for produce while in Italy, I can say that produce at Eataly is crazy beautiful.

 Smile in the produce aisle

I am a big fan of Eataly NY  and Eataly Milan Smeraldo’s huge 3 story space was even more impressive than the NYC Eataly.

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 Salumi, spec, and other assorted meats

I’m not sure what Los Angeles and Seattle are both still devoid of an Eataly…

 Up in the salumi case at Eataly

In addition to the gorgeous food, Eataly offers classes so you can learn more about food you love, too (assuming you speak Italian).

 The insalata aisle at Eataly

There is fresh pasta section, gorgeous steak cases, a fabulous wine edit and loads of beautiful meat and salumi.

 The salumi guy

Batali’s rock and roll taste is not far from my own, and the music section of Eataly has a nice edit of cds and books.

 Left: The music edit at Eataly reflects Batali’s Seattle roots

Batali’s Seattle roots are evident in the books section, with titles about local musicians Duff McKagen of Guns N’ Roses and Kurt Cobain.

A stylish shopper at Eataly

There is even a performance space and schedule of live music which shows how serious Eataly is about their community. If you’re in the area and haven’t had the Eataly experience, it’s well worth popping in for a browse or a meal right on premises.

 Eataly Milan Smaraldo Exterior

Eataly Milano Smeraldo
LUN – DOM: dalle 10.00 alle 24.00
Piazza XXV Aprile, 10 – 20121 Milano
eatalysmeraldo@eataly.it
+39 02 49497301

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