Merry Christmas! Bon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten!


I love Christmas – For me, it brings memories of BBQ’s in the sun, champagne breakfasts, 5am starts (even though I’m 25..), and afternoon naps. But growing up, all of the Christmas shows we watch on TV or in the movies are all about the snowy Christmas day (I could watch Jonathan Taylor Thomas rush home to make Christmas over and over), warm lit fires and a sprinkling of egg nog. No matter where you are in the world, Christmas is hugely different depending on weather and culture. Here are a few cool Christmas events you can attend, depending on what hemisphere you might be traveling through at that time of year :)
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Christmas in Paris 

German Christmas Markets

These are hugely popular, and you can pretty much find them all around the different European countries now, but Germanies rock. You can find all sorts of decorations, types of food and drink at the markets (which can be found in main streets etc), and you’ll always find the famous hand glass blown ornaments. Frohe Weihnachten!

Paris

Paris in general is absolutely stunning at Christmas time. The Champs Elysees sidewalk is turned into a board walk, with a sort of wood verandah over the top of the pavement. There are all sorts of stalls selling mulled wine, chestnuts, crepes and Christmas decorations, with a huge White Wonderland theme. Christmas Eve is the main event, usually celebrated by attending mass and then home for a huge meal of fois gras, oysters, venison and loads more – My type of Christmas for sure!
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Christmas jumpers are the best

Mummering in Canada

In some areas of Canada, there is a strange tradition called ‘mummering’ – People dress up in disguise and costumes, knock on  front doors and say in a disguised voice, “Are there any Mummers in the night?” or “Any mummers ‘loud in?'”, meaning ‘are mummers allowed in the house?’ Then they’ll sing, eat some Christmas cake, and if the host doesn’t guess who the Mummers are, the host must join the Mummers in their merry-making. Going Mummering is a fun Christmas season activity for adults. “Mummers” usually come out between December 26th and January 6th (The 12 Days of Christmas). However, some come out only before Christmas Day.

Hogmanay in Scotland

Though not strictly Christmas, this is a big New years Eve tradition in Scotland. Usually celebrated with all the normal drinking and fireworks and parades with a torchlit procession, but on New Years Day there is the Loony Dook – a 25 year old tradition where you go to South Queensforth and jump into the freezing cold water.. Yep, you read right. It actually raises loads of money for various charities, but I’d certainly rather be a viewer at this spectacle! The best part of this, is that January 2 is a public holiday in Scotland, to allow you to get over the festivities. How sensible.
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My Christmas, in Australia 

Celebrating in Japan

In Japan, less than 1% of the population is catholic so Christmas Day is more an celebration event than a religious one. The main event is Christmas Eve, and for single women the night has become marketed as a good time to spend with a loved one, similar to Valentines Day. Children also wait for presents from the Buddhist versions of Santa, called Hotei-osho who is said to have eyes in the back of his head (uh .. slightly terrifying). Christmas here is not so much a family event, so anywhere you go you’ll be able to have a good time and enjoy the Japanese version of Christmas vibe :)
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Todays snapshot of worldy wisdom ..


Did you know?

If you are drinking in a third world country like Bali, and get Methanol poisoning resulting in hospital, travel insurance (generally) will not cover you because you’ve been consuming alcohol?
Make sure to only drink at well know places, drink bottle capped drinks and always be aware of your surroundings!

My Melbourne Tip #201*


Go up the Eureka Tower ..

but save the $12 and don’t do the ledge, the view is just as great from the normal balconies! I didn’t realise how spectacular the view was until I went with an American friend recently, it certainly rivals the Eiffel Tower in terms of panoramic scenery! You can see all of Melbourne, and there are little ‘telescopes’ that help guide your eye in the direction of certain landmarks like Fed Square and the MCG and even to lesser known ones (helpful for the um, local tourist).

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*#201 is a made up number, so I seem like I am full of Melbourne tips .. which I am .. but none have ever been printed. I’ll get onto that.

Travel Vaccinations – What do I need for my holiday?


Whilst I am aware there isn’t a vaccination or cure for Ebola, in light of the outbreak bringing to light a very real health scare that is affecting people worldwide, I thought I would do a write up of vaccinations people should expect to get before embarking to popular destinations. Whether you’re traveling for the first time, or to an obscure destination, it’s always best to check with your doctor or travel agent as to whether you should get some vaccinations to stop any pesky virus from ruining your trip!

The run of the mill:

Bali – Whilst you don’t necessarily have to go and have any vaccinations before heading to the ever popular Bali, people who haven’t been before have surely heard about countless people getting sick with ‘Bali belly’ and the likes – see my own blog about my experience with this! You should always make sure your basic vaccinations are up to date like Tetanus and Diphtheria.  The biggest problem with falling sick in Bali is the poor hygiene standards so only drink bottled water (generally provided fresh and free each day in your hotel), steer clear of dodgy street food and take a strong insect repellent. As tasty as Mi Goreng is at 1am from the nice man on the street after a trip to the Bounty Nightclub, it’ll be hard distinguishing between hangover and food poisoning the next morning!

Thailand – Another very popular destination and you should follow the same advice as Bali with extra caution being taken with insect repellent as Malaria is more prevalent.

Fiji – Same as Thailand and Bali with again extra care taken with mosquitoes and insect repellent due to outbreaks of Dengue Fever.

A little further a field:

Peru – Extra caution should be taken again both Malaria and Dengue Fever. You can consult with your doctor and begin to take Malaria tablets prior to travel. I have been told they can make you feel a little under the weather, and give you some pretty crazy hallucinogenic like dreams! If you’re trekking, medication can be taken to help speed up the acclimatisation process. Yellow Fever injection should also be taken prior to travel, especially if continuing your travel through South America, and you can get these at your GP or travel vac specialist.

Eastern Europe – not to be confused with the ‘more’ travelled Western Europe which generally needs no extra vaccination, Eastern Europe can require a little more preparation due to years of neglect in the health system and water supply. Vaccinations to consider taking are the Influenza shot, especially when travelling in the colder months; Hepatitis A is becoming less common, but still a problem; Diarrhoeal outbreak is very common, so take caution with food, water and general hygiene, and make sure to carry some sort of ‘Diarrhea Stop’ medication with you for emergencies!

Tanzania – a common place to travel especially for people who want to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Malaria tablets should definitely be taken prior and during, some Exotic Tropical Diseases don’t usually cause too much problems but you should consult your doctor prior to travel to discuss these and Yellow Fever should always be taken when travelling through the Americas (mainly South and Latin) or Africa.

And lastly Japan –  Since 2007 an outbreak of measles has been found in Japan and you should always be vaccinated against this – Also the WHO has confirmed deaths from Avian Influenza through and outbreak in birds in the region. Travellers heading to Tokyo for a short period of time should be fine, but again always consult with your doctor.

This was seriously a ‘vaccination’ poster – and was too hilarious not to post even if completely unrelated..

Always speak to your Doc before heading away if you’re not sure, and your travel agent can also recommend the best Travel Vacc experts in the area!

All information has come from traveldoctor.com.au.

Pack Some Peace of Mind


Packing – I’ve written about it numerous times. For me, I like to think I generally have it down pat – Between that and being generally prepared when I venture off on a new adventure, with all of my vouchers printed out and my passport in a special travel wallet, I imagine I’ll be walking into the airport, hours early with a fresh blow wave with not a care in the world. Okay, so it doesn’t happen exactly like that (and I more often than not have to get a 4am ‘no body loves me bus’ to the airport alone, but thats beside the point!) You see, as I’ve become older and a more experienced traveler, I’ve probably gone the opposite to most and I put more time into planning now than I ever did. It’s because I know more what I like, what will benefit me, and what makes my life generally easier when heading away .

But one new campaign brought to my attention is the ‘Pack Some Peace of Mind‘ initiative, a collaboration between Australia’s consumer protection agencies. Since July 2014, travel agencies no longer need to be licensed, and with so many different avenues of booking a trip these days, it can not only be daunting and confusing, but you can often end up in a bit of strife – Whether it’s being wrongly advised about travel insurance or visas, to flat out losing your money because your either booked through an unsecured website, or your travel agent didn’t listen properly and you’ve booked the wrong thing.

Luckily this new initiative is full to the brim of tips for every traveler, from booking online, to booking with a travel agent, and there is even a cool Facebook game to play!

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Some of the tips they have listed for booking online are:

  1. Ensure the business has a good reputation. Read reviews and comments on travel websites and blogs. A good business should also display clear processes for solving problems and giving replacements and refunds on their website.
  2. Check that the browser bar on the payments page includes basic security features, such as a padlock symbol or address starting with ‘https://’.
  3. If you book and don’t get what you paid for, you may be able to seek a chargeback from your bank, if you pay with a credit card or by selecting ‘credit’ on a MasterCard or Visa debit card. You may also be able to seek a chargeback if using PayPal (note that PayPal has its own dispute resolution processes).
  4. Check that the business includes their contact details, such as a phone number and email address, on their website.
  5. Make sure you carefully read the terms and conditions, so you know your options if you have to change or cancel your booking.
  6. Your Australian Consumer Law rights may also apply when you buy from an overseas online business, but you might find it difficult to get a refund or other solution if you don’t get what you paid for.

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And for booking with an agent:

  1. Look for an agent who is accredited (for example, through the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ ATAS scheme) or has received another stamp of approval; these companies are required to meet certain professional standards and criteria, and should have dispute resolution options in place. Search for an ATAS-accredited agent.
  2. Look for an agent who advertises their services and any deals clearly.
  3. Choose an agent who listens closely to what you want, answers your questions, makes appropriate suggestions, and explains any terms and conditions.
  4. Get advice from family and friends about agents they have used.
  5. If you book and don’t get what you paid for, you may be able to seek a chargeback from your bank, if you pay with a credit card, or MasterCard or Visa debit card and select ‘credit’ as the account type.
  6. Make sure you carefully read the terms and conditions, so you know your options if you have to change or cancel your booking.

It also lists all of your rights, tips for booking stuff overeas, has a super handy FAQ, and contact details for each States Consumer Protection and Fair Trading Agencies! As a travel agent, and a ‘seasoned’ traveler, I highly recommend jumping on board and keeping up to date with the latest – The travel world is ever changing after all, and the last thing you want in a ruined holiday.

And remember the good old saying – If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. (But that $1,000,000 from your Nigerian half brothers cousins daughter is definitely legit – promise*)

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* This is a lie.

Travel Insurance feedback


Feedback from a client and friend:

“Please read on the importance of travel insurance!
One of my nearest and dearest was involved in an unfortunate situation OS beyond their control that required surgery and an overnight stay. Without the insurance ($80) there would have been a $9000 bill and a load more stress.
Couldn’t talk more highly of Covermore – thanks to Madelin Blanche for arranging the insurance in the first place!”

To read about why I think travel insurance is so important, see this article I wrote in February breaking down the importance and benefits.

Thanks Covermore, for being so easy to deal with!

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“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”


And with that, I’ve finally changed the layout of Le Monde Entier to a more streamlined version.

And I love it.

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Goodbye yellow tram, you’ve done me well.

Don’t forget, Le Monde Entier is not just a travel website – I’m a news and lifestyle writer and dabble in ad copywriting, so contact me if you’re own website needs a facelift, some extra marketing or if you need an article written.

The French Corner Cafe, Geelong West.


As seen in Forte Magazine

If you read my website or column you’d know by now how much I love France. I got the chance to live there a few years ago on and off working in a Chateau, and I go back every time I head to Europe. I learnt the language for a few years (even though it’s a little rusty!), and like to spend my time imagining a simple life living in a french loft in Montmarte, buying my baguettes everyday and riding my bike everywhere with my scarf flowing in the wind on my way to gallery exhibitions .. But for now, I have to deal with the occasional holiday and now luckily we have a few great French cafes around Geelong! 

I went along to the second French night that was held at the French Corner Cafe. It’s owned by a local couple who have worked in hospitality for years and finally decided to venture out on their own. I’ve grabbed the occasional coffee and baguette here before but was pretty excited about the prospect of a 3 course meal with petit fours and live piano accordion! 

We arrived at 6.30pm – the French Corner Cafe is always decorated superbly with flags, and traditional french momentos hanging all over the walls, from pictures to copper pots. It feels like a proper Parisian bistro you would find on any corner, complete with the flower pots outside on the window sills.

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We are seated and its truly quaint – bustling with the surrounding tables, but still private enough to not feel forgotten or swamped.

The drinks list is brilliant, with a great combination of local and international wines at really reasonable prices. My partner orders a bottle of French red to himself (the benefits of having a pregnant girlfriend who can drive you home!).

The menu consists of:

Entree: A stunning house made charcuterie board – with veal and pine nut terrine, duck liver pate, assorted pickled vegetables, olives and a selection of cured meats and my pick for the absolute best part of the board – The baked brie. Nothing quite says indulgent like dipping a baguette into bakes, hot, dripping french cheese! There is also a large assortment of breads and wafers, much more than even needed which is a nice change!

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Main: A choice between chicken and lamb. The lamb is a shoulder slow cooked with carrots and potatoes, and the chicken is set on a beautiful truffle puree with broccoli and snow peas. 

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Desert: Wow – out came a spectacular plate filled with home made french delicacies – creme brulee, macarons, an eiffel tower shaped biscuit, a triple choc and caramel tart, a fresh vanilla and berry tart, lemon sorbet, and lovely little Friands. So so so delicious!

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and then some take home macarons of course!

All of this with attentive waiters, David walking around chatting to everyone and taking photos of us wearing french chefs hats and berets and the piano accordion in the background!

It was an absolutely awesome night, and luckily it has been such a hit that they are running them at least once a month through summer – I have heard they’re already selling out though! 

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