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 no 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 with the Australian Consumer Law. 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!

pspom 3

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.

pspom 1

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*)

nigerian prince

* 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!


“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.


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.

IMG_7511 IMG_7512

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!


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. 


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!


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! 


“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ; Preparing for the worst abroad.

Planning your holiday can be one of the absolute best and most exciting things you’ll ever do – From deciding where you’re going, to how long for, what your must sees are and what to pack. You’ll probably google where the coolest bars are near your chosen hotel, and the best times to go to galleries and certain attractions you want to see. You might even look up the best way to get around with the public transport systems and read fellow travellers reviews and blogs on the areas. But things you generally don’t look up is the local emergency service numbers, or pharmacists and doctors. You probably also don’t look up how to say ‘infection’ or ‘pain’ in the local language of your chosen country. No one wants to dwell on those kinds of things right? But things can go wrong, and without letting it completely ruin your time away, here are a few ways you can combat them without alarm.


First and foremost is to have travel insurance. Sounds simple enough, but your company should have 24/7 emergency assist, and my insurer Covermore also have nurses who do triage in their call centre. This means that wherever you are, if you end up in hospital and need help, are not sure with the procedures or exactly what is happening, your insurer is always there to help – My insurer also guarantees first world medical treatment so if I end up in a hospital in a foreign country and they deem that what the doctor wants to do it not up to their standards, they will liase with the hospital and organise transport to a better area. Make sure to read the fine print, and under no circumstance ever purchase a travel insurance that doesn’t have completely unlimited medical and dental cover! An X Ray in the United States can start with a $2000 USD price tag, let alone any following procedures, and one night stay in the ICU has a base fee of $5000 USD.

first aid

Carry a small phrase book that doesn’t take up too much space – Most of these will have a medical section at the back so if you end up with a burst ear drum from the flight, or a urine infection (very common for women), or even just simple things like a burn, you should be able to get your message across to a pharmacists to get you the best help and advice. Most Western European people speak brilliant English, but depending on where you are, it can be pretty difficult and incredibly embarrassing to hand signal to someone that you have gastro. Eek..

My boyfriend is especially good at this one, as much as I am hopeless at it – Make yourself a little first aid kit. It should contain bandaids, antiseptic cream, a bandage, safety pins, panadol, and possibly even some small scissors. This is for an immediate fix and super helpful if your traveling in a city with limited access to a chemist. I always carry around a liquid hand sanitiser as well and some toilet paper/tissues to make sure I’m covered in any situation!


If you want to be really organised and you’re staying in a city more then a few days its always helpful to ask your front desk where the closest chemist and hospital is – I remember feeling absolutely dreadful in Paris once, and going downhill very quickly with stomach cramps. Trying to find a hospital on a metro map in that situation is entirely unpleasant so if you make yourself familiar with it before anything happens, you’re laughing!

Try and keep your cool – I know it sounds like a cliche, but when you have to get your point across about an ailment in a sticky or difficult situation, all parties involved will be happier if you’ve come prepared!

“Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” – Rumi, circa 1200’s

Published in Forte Magazine, slightly edited for online version.

This week, I thought I’d write about something a little closer to home. And when we are blessed to be living in such a cultural, beautiful and produce filled place why not!

For my birthday a few weeks ago I decided to do a winery tour down the Bellarine Peninsula. I got the idea off a friend from Adelaide, where wineries outnumber houses* and winery tours are a regular event! Geelong is perfectly positioned for access to multiple wineries, with up to 4 or so different routes you can choose. These are all highlighted every year in November when we have Toast to the Coast – Buses drive the routes up and down all day and you buy a pass to get on and off! There are mostly free wine tastings at all of them, and you can buy take away bottles of any that take your fancy. There is food and entertainment, and of course the weather is lovely then too.

The route I chose for my birthday has loads of amazing wineries, but I chose a select few to occupy a couple of hours. To begin with we had lunch at Jack Rabbit winery, down in Portarlington and right on the bay. I chose Jack Rabbit because I think it undoubtedly has the most stunning views, set on a sprawling hill looking back over the Geelong region. It hosts many weddings and other celebrations every year because of its prime location. The menu is ever changing and we enjoyed charcuterie and anti pasto plates, filled with soft goats cheese, salty cured meats and delicious crunchy crisp breads. The sparkling white is really delicious, and we tried the house Merlot with lunch which was a mixture of home made beef pies, fish and chips and juicy salads.

View from Jack Rabbit, from their website.

Right next door to Jack Rabbit, is Terindah which was a favourite of mine last Toast to the Coast. The wine tasting area is almost like a big warehouse, and down from that on the hill is the main restaurant. It has a huge amount of area in front to sit in the sun and enjoy a Pinot, which is why I probably didn’t enjoy it as much having my birthday in Winter. The wine tasting area was very bland – Empty, no music and no atmosphere what so ever. They can boast an award winning Shiraz, but sipping our wine in silence was fairly dis interesting, so we finished the wine list (yes, the Shiraz was lovely for the record), and went a few hundred metres down the highway to Bellarine Estate.

Photo courtesy of

Bellarine Estate was a complete contrast from Terindah. Warm, buzzing, and music filled it had a roaring fire and loads of comfy chairs and areas to sit. The bar was full and we tried the full selection of wines – We didn’t get to try the beers but they also do a really cool 5 mini pot beer floater so you can try the different ales and others they brew. Bellarine also do their own ginger beer which looked delicious (as most ginger beers do!). They also do amazing fire oven pizzas here and although we didn’t try any this as we were still so full from lunch, we’ve had them in the past and they are delicious. At Toast they roll our hay bails into their huge paddock area and its filled with little stalls to buy different foods and drinks. They also do the annual Harvest ‘n’ Graze here, last year Darryl Braithwaite sang and my calf muscles were so sore from dancing I couldn’t walk to work the next day!

Our final stop was at Leura Park on the highway home to Geelong – Usually amazing again in Summer with live music and a busy atmosphere, they were shutting when we got there are 4pm on Saturday, and they rushed us through the wine tasting – I’d been saving us all for cheese platters here so it was a pretty disappointing finish!

All in all though it was an awesome day and I highly recommend getting a crew together!

*statistic not proven :)

The hottest summer I ever had.

Published in Forte Magazine 

What would you like to read about when it’s cold and rainy outside, and your heater takes 3 good hours at work to finally defrost your fingers? How about I tell you all about my hottest holiday – When clothes were not even optional, just a hindrance. And lying on the cold tiles on the balcony (yes, sans clothes) was one of the only ways to keep a little cooler and be able to sleep.

6 years ago I lived in a tiny little town out of Venice called Spresiano for the summer. During the day, as any Mediterranean city, the few shops in the village shut between 12-3 pm each day and unlike the 60% of European people who speak English as a second language, this town was filled with locals who rarely came into contact with anyone who didn’t speak Italian. I absolutely adored it, learning to buy my bus tickets in and out of Venice from the crazy lady at the news agency who taught me how to say ‘return’ and ‘one way’, and the fresh market that came through every Thursday where you could buy fresh seafood and local meats. I lived here during June – August so the heat was extreme – I’m talking high of 40 at nighttime. I was also there during an intense heatwave which I certainly felt.

Lido Beach 


My normal day went something like this: Sleep in until around 10-11am. Make a fresh Italian coffee on the stove in the percolator, eat a yoghurt and chuck the lightest possible clothes on to walk the 5-10 minutes to the supermarket. I went most days to buy things to eat for lunch, and to cook for dinner, and taught myself to make fresh pasta! (First attempt not so great, note: remember to make strips much much thinner or you’ll eat pasta rubber). Then after the supermarket venture, I came home and started drinking spritzs – Don’t judge me, I was on holidays and I was taught from the man I was staying with! It’s the way of life .. I swear. For those who don’t know, a Spritz is Aperol and Prosecco and your first one probably won’t be all that enjoyable, especially if you’re like me and don’t like orange flavored things but your second – Well that’s something else.

Duran Duran Concert 

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand .. 

As the afternoon sun heated up, and I lived upstairs in an apartment with no air con, there was no chance to do anything but either make the decision to trek into Venice and get the water taxi to Lido and lay on the beach, or stay at home and watch my house guests huge collection of  DVD’s! The amount of LOST I watched that year .. Plus everyone is having a siesta, so even if you wanted to go out, everything is closed (by everything, I mean the 3 shops in the village).

In the afternoon if it has cooled at all I went for walks around the cane fields to get some exercise, but mostly during that big heat wave I just stayed in and attempted sunbaking, which was 5 minutes sun, 30 minutes cold shower and repeat. The nights were terrible at times, because it was SO hot and uncomfortable there was absolutely no respite. I literally used to lay outside on the balcony with just a pillow and try and get my body temperature down!!

Learning to dance with the locals 

I stayed here because I was on my first ever European Holiday, was young and full of myself and quickly ran out of money. A family friend took me in and let me stay with him, took me to Duran Duran concert on the beach and gave me generally amazing hospitality. Not a bad way to run out of money at 18 and have to spend your time savings your pennies!

And SkyTrax #1 Airline of the year is ..

CATHAY PACIFIC! After knocking Emirates firmly off the top (and down to number 4!), Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific have taken the number one crown for 2014. 

1. Cathay Pacific

I flew them a few years ago on an emergency trip home from London, and really enjoyed them – Hong Kong is also a huuuge airport, so even with an 8 hour layover I wasn’t completely bored!

Number 2 is a favorite of mine, Middle Eastern carrier QATAR, number 3 is Singapore Airlines (with the #1 rated airport in the world), and then Emirates. 

Bad: Sadly but not surprisingly Malaysian Airlines are a dim #18.

18. Malaysia Airlines


Surprising: The most surprising to me was Etihad at #9, and Air NZ at #16 – Both airlines are fantastic, and I highly rate them! 

9. Etihad Airways

16. Air New Zealand


The who?: Hainan Airlines – ranked #19, having never heard of them, they apparently are forking out $5 billion for a brand new fleet and have a consistently #10 rated cabin crew!


All information and pictures found on the Financial Post.


Como Melbourne, Chapel Street

Almost on the corner of Toorak Road and Chapel St in Melbournes CBD is the Como Hotel. I was put onto it by a friend who had stayed a few weeks before and raved out it – Not only for the location and the rooms, but the price – from around $220 per night in the lead in room, which is what we stayed in. It’s the Como Suite, and is huge. It has a king size bed, floor to ceiling mirror in a funny frame facing the bed, flat screen TV and a large desk, chair and mini bar. All of the drinks and snacks are gourmet and local, as are all the bathroom amenities.

Things I loved:

Chilled Champagne in a bucket on arrival because when we booked we wrote that it was out anniversary in the comments (which it was!). Considering they didn’t know what time we were arriving and we were quite late, this was great!


I had considered upgrading to the Japanese Spa Suite, because this was the recommended room but as a couple on a ‘house saving’ budget I opted for the basic room. I’m so glad I did because our bathroom had a huge jacuzzi bath anyway! And just to be completely ridiculous, it even had a ‘Bath Menu’ – $30 and you ‘self draw’ your bath but you’re given bath salts etc, right up to a butler drawn bath with champagne!

The size of the rooms – Even though we were only there for the night, the rooms were so spacious, with ample storage space, huge grey bathrobes and a gorgeous grey black bathroom.


Even each floor, on our way to our room was grand, broken up with big sitting areas and wide hallways.

The location was so handy – We walked to a wonderful dumpling bar, past rows and rows of cool bars. We were heading up for the Melbourne Storm game at Aami Stadium, only a 10 minute cab ride from here.

They have a parking garage right next door that almost connects, but is not actually owned by the Como. It’s only $9 per day on weekends, which is super cheap for Melbourne (yesterday we paid $5.50 an HOUR!).


Room service is 24/7 and you can put out your breakfast menu with what time you would like it brought up and as long as it’s on your door handle before 2am, you’re sorted!


There isn’t anything to add on the’ things I don’t like’ list. It’s refreshing to find a wonderful hotel, with great service and prices in such a central location. Highly recommended!

*This was not a commissioned piece.