Dare to dream – we suggest you do it. For us, simply imagining a time in the future when it’s again safe to jump on a plane, dine with friends and explore the world’s gifts is very much worth the mental exercise – to keep our hopes alive. In memory of some of our favourite destinations, dining experiences and unique world beverages, here’s a list of the international (and local) travel destinations we miss the most.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Why we love it: Saint Petersburg, or Piter, as many Russians lovingly nickname it, contains a busy network of canals and rivers that connect to wide, slow-flowing Bolshaya Neva, that big river that snakes its way around the city centre and into the Gulf of Finland. Saint Petersburg stands strong as a monument to the creative spirit, love, strength and pride of the Russian people. It is without doubt Russia’s cultural capital, an engineering marvel, and an architectural masterpiece that will win you over.
Must visit: Saint Isaac’s Square is within easy walking distance of many of Saint Petersburg’s main attractions, including the Admiralty Building – former headquarters of the Imperial Russian Navy – in the grounds of Alexander Garden, where Australians may be surprised to spot a mature eucalyptus tree. Also nearby is the Winter Palace and the State Hermitage Museum, the Summer Garden (Letniy Sad), the majestic Mariinsky Theatre, and one of the world’s great boulevards, Nevsky Prospekt.
Cala Canyelles, Spain
Why we love it: Cala Canyelles is a place so beautiful and peaceful it smoothes the creases of the mind. While tourism authorities promote its main beach and high-rise city neighbour, Lloret de Mar (around 2 hours north east of Barcelona), Cala Canyelles, tucked only a few kilometres away hidden in forested hills, offers both authenticity and charm – something that’s hard to find among Lloret’s aging neon-lit 1960s disco-techs and sandwiched-in concrete-stacked apartments.
In contrast, Canyelles’ streets are a maze of impeccably built classic Spanish stone villas with stepped and terraced gardens of flowers, succulents and cacti flourishing in the sun. Some gardens step up to luxury pools, or down to hidden underground garages.
Must visit: Restaurant El Trull, for its gastronomic art with a focus on fresh seasonal Catalonian seafood and premium meats, all locally mountain-reared. Within this expansive resort-style establishment European fine dining remains a highlight, produced to a high standard that El Trull has maintained since it opened in 1968. eltrull.com
Tallis Wines Cellar Door, Dookie, Australia
Why we love it: In terms of wineries with a view, premium soils and brilliant cellar doors, Tallis Wine in Dookie, Victoria is one of our favourites. The modernist corrugated iron-clad cellar door architecture features sweeping views from its interior floor-to-ceiling glass, with the simplicity of the layout and sleek furnishings only adding to the wonderful feeling of calm. Perched in the rolling hills of Dookie and with around 30km of cropping and grazing land between it and the nearest regional centre, the first thing you’re sure to notice upon arrival is the complete silence. This lack of distraction amplifies the experience of viewing the wide open panorama before you, while at the same time leaves your mind freed up to focus on the remaining set of information put before it: ancient soils, friendly people and top quality wine.
Must try: Tallis 2017 Boğazkere (wine), showcases a vibrant ruby red colour and an enticing mix of soft florals: cherries and rose water aromas that burst from the glass. Other more subtle spicy notes following. The palate is fresh and savoury, with firm yet not overpowering tannins. It makes a wonderful match to the lighter-styled expertly curated food platters offered at cellar door. Order online at: talliswine.com.au
French Saloon, Melbourne, Australia
Why we love it: There’s a gentle ease to dining at Melbourne’s iconic French Saloon – the dishes are designed for sharing and add a light visual beauty to the table. Rather than demanding your attention, the dishes become a part of the conversation: soft layerings of joy that tease the palate. While it pains us to think about it currently sitting vacant, its pleasing to remember its elegant soulful appeal – visually warm with a perfectly layered polished patina that softens the mind. While chef owner Ian Curley tells us that it may be up to a year before a reopening is possible, we can’t help but wish for a much earlier, if safe, relaunch.
Must try: French Saloon’s steak tartar comes plated with a free rage egg yolk and a perfectly round dollop of gentleman’s relish – a brown sauce comprising horseradish, Worcestershire and other ingredients that deliver umami rich flavours and a good deal of heat. This adds a generous layer of punch to the beautifully glistening, seasoned herb-laced raw beef.
Monstein Brewery, Davos-Monstein, Switzerland
Why we love it: It’s one of the highest-altitude breweries in Europe, with an international reputation for making premium quality ales using locally grown alpine barley-malt and hops. BierVision-Monstein Brewery, sited 1625 metres above sea level, has become Switzerland’s highest beer-tourism hotspot, attracting 250 tour groups to the tiny 190-inhabitant village of Davos-Monstein each year.
Must Try: The Capricorn (Bock beer) – named for the rugged male steinbock, the Capricorn or alpine ibex. The beer is intense with a variety of complex flavours – made with a high malt and sugar content that increases its alcohol content; yet it’s highly balanced with caramelised malt which makes it easier to drink, reducing bitterness. Swiss Alps organic mountain malt is used, grown at more than 900 metres above sea level. monsteiner.ch
Mürren: While you’re in the Swiss Alps!
Nothing beats a decent cable car ride! Mürren is a Swiss mountain village at the foot of the Schilthorn peak, which is accessible by this amazing cable car. Featured in a James Bond film, the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant contains the Bond World 007 exhibit and has views of Mont Blanc. The venue aims to resume operations on the Schilthorn on June 8, 2020.
Mira Moon Hotel, Hong Kong
Why we love it: Building on both ancient myth and modern story, the interior design of Hong Kong’s Mira Moon proves an equally enthralling magical mystery tour, intriguing in its luxuriant decadence and eccentricity. Painstakingly crafted by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, several highly glazed ceramic red rabbits with wings fly above the reception desk. Plush floral custom-designed carpets and shards of crystal offer unexpected prickly-textured visuals as you enter the hotel. It’s worth taking a seat in this mad-hatter’s tea party of an entry lounge: it can take a little while to absorb and come to terms with the detail woven into its unconventional and super-playful surroundings.
Must Try: The in-house Super Giant restaurant and bar featuring time-honoured Chinese culinary skills with dishes that appear as visual works of plated art. While the crispy slow-cooked suckling pig was a stand-out calling card, the Duck cigar, Havana style is a fantastic visual extension of food creativity. miramoonhotel.com