The fascinating story of the ‘jungle juice’

Every country has its folklore and its share of what might be called ‘colourful characters’.

Some are famous; some infamous; some have shone brightly in history; and others faded all too briefly.

Mel Jurd certainly made his mark on life – although information about this Australian entrepreneur isn’t easy to find.

In fact, we had to visit the historic eastern-Australian village of Wollombi to track down the details.

Wollombi is an attractive little place on the fringe of Australia’s Hunter Wine Region.  


We set off from the coastal city of Newcastle and travelled via the villages of Bulga and Broke, driving through vineyards and stunning rural countryside into the Wollombi Valley.

Situated on a crossroad, Wollombi’s boasts a series of grand 19th Century sandstpone buildings that reflect its history along the Great North Road, a convict-built link between Sydney and the Upper Hunter.


Early 19th Century sandstone building, Wollombi, Australia.

However we had come to visit a more humble structure – the Wollombi Tavern.

And it wasn’t for the beer, as fine a drop as that may be.

We were interested in the story of Mel Jurd, who apparently operated the tavern when it was called the Wollombi Wine Saloon and later the Wollombi Wine Bar.

Mel is somewhat of a legend in the area and locals explained that, in the 1960’s, he came up with the idea of creating a distinctly local brew that could only be purchased at Wollombi.


Image courtesy of Wollombi Tavern website

Folklore has it that Mel took to collecting the leftover wine from each day at the wine bar and learning all he could about various brewing techniques.

A mate had mentioned a wartime ‘cure-all’ used by soldiers to ward off illnesses – something like a double-nip of port wine, mixed with a nip of brandy. 

When this was added to muscat or sherry dregs from bottles left on the bar and occasionally mixed with blackberry and goodness knows what else, it became the basis for a new brew.

Mel eventually called the finished product ‘Dr Jurd’s Jungle Juice’ – and, to this day, the brew can be purchased only at the Wollombi Tavern or ordered on its website.

The product has remained the trademark of the establishment ever since.

How does it taste? Such judgements are personal ideed – so why not order a bottle online or add Wollombi to your bucket list to see for yourself.

Mel Jurd eventually exchanged the title of ‘Dr’ for ‘Friar’ and moved to operate a local restaurant – before heading for a warmer climate in his retirement.

He left behind  both his jungle juice and a great story about a truly colourful character.

Features travel

Is mass tourism reaching a tipping point?

It remains divisive, but the question of whether mass, packaged tourism has reached its tipping point continues to boil.

The negative effects of too many tourists visiting somewhere at once is playing out widely and almost daily on the world stage.


Obviously, tourism is a massive source of employment and prosperity – a central plank of many economies. And, many responsible travel and hospitality firms, for some time, have been introducing measures aimed at reducing mass tourism damage as much as possible. 

Just as obviously, however, the current tourism system – where mass visitor numbers keep rising each year – is unsustainable.

From Central Rome to the Greek Islands, the Great Wall of China and the jam-packed beaches of Phuket, towns, cities and attractions are feeling the pinch as more and more tourists each year severely test infrastructure and the patience of local residents. 


It seriously threatens to ruin many of the very attractions that mass tourism wants to see.

Fatal cruise ship and bus accidents in Venice, Hungary, Norway, Portugal and the Mediterranean have caught public attention recently, as have protests on the waterways of Venice and the streets of Barcelona.

However, it was the Dutch who really caused the world to sit up and take notice this year when they decided to stop encouraging tourism in favor of managing current visitor numbers.


To stem the flow of mass tourism into Amsterdam, officials limited Airbnb rentals; promoted outlying districts as alternatives; banned new tourist shops; and outlawed so-called ‘beer bikes’.

At Venice, the lagoon ecosystem is struggling to handle ever-growing tourism and cruise ships. 


These ships have also reduced the effectiveness of the city improvement tax imposed on overnight stays

Across Italy, hordes of day-trippers arriving along the Cinque Terre coast are putting pressure on its picture-postcard towns.


It’s a similar story at the Greek island of  Santorini; the medieval town of Kotor in Montenegro; Dubrovnik in Croatia; Prague; Easter Island in Chile; Iceland; Cairo; Banff in Canada; Scotland’s Isle of Skye and Bali.  

In each of these places, local infrastructure – much of it extremely old – is battling to keep pace with demand. 


In Iceland, for example, tens of thousands of cruise ship and plane passengers arrive each summer, creating crowds so big that locals are now concerned about the impact on a relatively fragile environment. 

In the blue and white dreamland that is Santorini, it can be extremely difficult to battle the crowds in the streets of Fira – so difficult that locals are leaving in big numbers.

Authorities at Dubrovnik were forced to limit the number of cruise ships allowed to dock each day because of fears that the ancient walled centre of the Croatian city should not have more than 8,000 people at a time. 


A similar limit on arrivals has been introduced at Barcelona.

Possibly the prettiest body of water in Europe, Lake Bled, doesn’t have cruise ships to worry about, but is still fast becoming a victim of its reputation, with crowds flocking to the beautiful Slovenian town in search of the perfect Instagram shot.


Some popular beaches across Asia have been closed to allow them to recover from the impact of tourism.

And because of damage to the ruins of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, the government of Peru has been forced to introduce a daily limit of 2,500 tourists.

While attention focuses on the problems of ever-growing mass tourism numbers, there are numerous examples of travel and hospitality firms taking the lead and introducing excellent sustainability measures.  

From airlines moving to fuel-efficient planes; to cruise companies offering carbon-offset tours and low-emission ships; and hotels reforesting wilderness in Africa, there are many sincere examples.


However, another downside of mass, packaged tourism is that, although it creates many jobs and brings in export income as a whole, the bulk of money outlaid by tourists goes to the tour companies rather than communities along the way.

Travellers who are journeying by themselves tend to integrate more and leave money in the communities they visit.

It’s hard to see how the current mass tourism model can continue. 

Technology and transport improvements, along with high disposable income in many countries, has made travel more popular than ever. 

But the crushing impact on the world’s most popular destinations is taking an ecological toll that simply cannot last.

Caps, limits and bans will probably just move the problem to a neighbouring harbour.

It has been suggested that an answer may lie in a hefty minimum daily expenditure such as that imposed in Bhutan or a sustainability accreditation scheme like one used in Costa Rica.

These are almost certainly part of the solution, but the most likely answer is a gradual change in community attitudes involving tourists, government, and the travel and hospitality providers. 



Romantic destinations

There’s no doubt about it: travel can be romantic.

So, at this time of year when love is in the air, here’s some of our favourite romantic destinations:

1.Venice, Italy – if romance has an ideal backdrop, this is it. Venice seems to emit a romantic energy. No wonder it is known as the City of Honeymoons.


2. Crete, Greece – what a wonderful island. Rugged scenery, friendly people, wonderful food and an amazing culture.


3. Lattari Mountain villages, Campania, Italy – within sight of the Amalfi coastline, yet a land lost in time. These villages spell out romance with a capital ‘R’.

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4. Schafberg Mountain, Austria – rising up from the waters of the Wolfgangsee, this mountain takes you to a land above the clouds. In season, catch the Schafbergbahn train to the top and behold the Hotel Schafbergspitze on its snowy peak.

Schafberg birdseye.jpg

5. El Maresme costa, Catalonia – Barcelona and the coast to its north are as romantic as anyone could wish


6. The Gower, southern Wales – a misty and mystic wonderland of green lowlands, rocky peaks, beaches, ancient castles and standing stones, the Gower is good for the soul.


 7. Lake Bled, Slovenia – commonly described as one of the most beautiful places on earth, Bled has all the ingredients for a romantic stay.  Simply stunning!!


8. Florence, Italy –  To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature.” – Mark Twain


9. Athens, Greece – the ancient wonders of this captivating city are matched by the warmth of its people, the superb food and the excitement of the bubbling metropolis.


10. Rome, Italy – the Eternal City spells romance and excitement at every turn.


11. Niagara Falls, USA – another honeymoon favourite for a reason. There’s something about Mother Nature at her grandest.


12. London, United Kingdom – the ‘Capital of Capitals’ has an appeal that must be experienced to be fully understood. We defy anyone to step off the plane at Heathrow and not feel immediately that the city is special indeed.


13. Prague, Czech Republic – a cobblestone wonder that is as romantic as you will find anywhere.


14. The Isle of Capri, Italy – every visit to this emerald island will feel like falling in love.


15. Utah’s national parks – The Coyote Buttes – and who didn’t love cowboy movies?


16. Scotland, United Kingdom – a rugged landscape, where the air is crisp and the whiskey is smooth.


17. Paris, France – a perennial favourite with lovers, lose yourself in the boulevards and architecture (but watch the drivers)


18. Copenhagen, Denmark – the dock of the bay at Nyhaven, one of the many charming highlights of this elegant and friendly city.


19. The Dolomites, Italy – this limestone mountain range in north-eastern Italy is a favourite with the ski crowd, but its beautiful, rugged landscape is dotted with romantic cabins where solitude comes free of charge.


20. The North Coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom – scenery to die for.


Barcelona Features Romance

Taking sustainable tourism seriously

There’s two sides to the question of sustainable tourism.

In Europe, there have been surges of resident concern about overcrowding and the impact of cruise ships on fragile ancient cities like Venice, Barcelona, Dubrovnik and Italy’s Isle of Capri.

Tourism contributes enormously to economies and job-creation, but also creates pressure on local cultures, the environment and energy resources.

Anyone who has visited the Greek islands, Venice or Capri in Summer will attest to the problems of cruise ships and coaches disgorging thousands of people into tiny, Medieval streets.

However, there’s another key side to the issue that doesn’t necessarily grab the headlines, but is even more important.

Positive action is being taken across a range of areas to ensure that mass tourism doesn’t destroy the attractions that draw people in the first place.

One of the most high profile measures occurred when the United Nations highlighted the issue by designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.


This gave important impetus to a range of industry measures that were able to be highlighted during the year.

Its tourism body, the UNWTO, encouraged practices like minimizing the use of plastic; protecting natural and cultural heritage such as rain forests and historical sites; supporting local communities by employing local staff, buying local products and engaging in charity work.

However, sustainable tourism measures were well underway before 2017.

The airline industry, for example, has long been investing in new-age planes that burn less fuel and provide health and cost-saving benefits.

For example, we recently rated the Age-Friendliness of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner operated by Scoot Airlines between Australia and Athens.


It was an eye-opening experience.

The Dreamliner is made of composite plastic, uses less fuel, leaves passengers feeling more refreshed upon arrival and seems much quieter than similar-size jets.

Scoot has set a tremendous example of sustainability and environmental consciousness by dominating its fleet with Dreamliners.

And, of course, that is only part of an important trend.

Treading in the right direction

10462890_747168288660125_7424016551669484611_n.jpgOther notable and praiseworthy steps toward sustainable tourism include the TreadRight Foundation, a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, which include prominent industry players AAT Kings; Trafalgar Tours; Red Carnation Hotels; Insight Vacations; Contiki Tours; Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection; and Creative Holidays.

TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit that encourages sustainability by providing grants to protect natural attractions and unique heritages. To date, TreadRight has helped support at least 40 sustainable tourism projects worldwide.

An example is the first-of-its-kind guide for sustainable river cruising. This guide suggests strategies for reducing water and energy use and waste generation on river cruises.

These type of positive initiatives allow travellers to select and support companies that are showing a commitment to sustainable tourism.

The cruise industry itself has also been involved in ocean conservation measures such as reducing exhause emissions – and has invested in fuel efficient ships and water and waste conservation.

And, importantly, cruise companies are increasingly looking beyond their ships to the places they visit – encouraging onshore tour providers to adopt sustainable practices.

The Centre for Responsible Travel (CREST) is a research organization with the aim of increasing the positive global impact of responsible tourism.

CREST says it helps governments; policy makers; tourism businesses; nonprofit organizations; and international agencies to find solutions to critical issues confronting tourism.

For the individual traveller, there are alsoa growing number of online travel purchasing platforms, such as Kind Traveler, claiming to help consumers choose companies that are giving back to their communites.

Air news Features Sustainable Tourism

Daisy the cow and the night Chicago died

As you walk down North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, it’s impossible to miss the old water tower.

And, more than 140 years after the Great Chicago Fire, the tower is one of the few remaining links to this momentous event – along with the story of Daisy the cow.

The 47 metre limestone tower was one of only a few structures in the area to escape the inferno of October 1871. It’s now an eye-catching art gallery.


Information board at the Chicago Water Tower

Mrs O’Leary’s cow wasn’t so lucky, but whether Daisy actually played any role in the fire that killed 300 people and destroyed three square miles of the city, is debated to this day.

City officials never discovered the exact cause, but a popular tale in Chicago blames Mrs O’Leary’s cow for kicking over a lantern in a barn off DeKoven Street.

Another theory is that men were gambling inside the barn and knocked over a lantern.

What is certain is that two-thirds of Chicago was made of wood and tar; that the area needed rain badly; and that southwestly winds carried embers into the heart of the city.

And whatever actually ignited the blaze, it spread rapidly through the timber buildings, wooden sidewalks and even some wooden roads.


Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune archive

Once flames jumped the Chicago River and destroyed the waterworks, the mains apparently went dry and little could be done.

Within a couple of days, more than 100,000 people were homeless.

In the aftermath of the blaze, Chicago promptly began to rewrite its fire standards and soon created one of the country’s leading fire-fighting forces.

At the same time, business owners and land speculators quickly set about rebuilding the city, helped in no small part by generous assistance from across the US.


Memorial at the spot where the fire started

The story of Mrs O’Leary and her cow continued to grow, despite denials by the family itself and a later newspaper confession that the tale had been fabricated.

In fact, it became so engrained in local lore that Chicago’s city council officially exonerated the O’Leary family —and the cow—in 1997.

Since then, it has also been suggested that the blaze – and others across the Midwest of the US – may have been sparked by a meteor shower – or that ‘Pegleg’ Sullivan, who first reported the Chicago fire, may have ignited hay in the barn while trying to steal milk.

Or perhaps Daisy acted alone.

Chicago Features

We can’t deny it: we’re clock-watchers

It may seem a bit lame and even a trite humorous, but we always try to take time out of travelling to see extraordinary public clocks

Here’s an updated list of some of the best we’ve come across. Let us know which beauties we’ve missed.

Westminster, London


Obviously, the daddy of all clocks is this one in England.

Nick-named ‘Big Ben’ this is said to be the biggest four-faced clock in the world. The tower at the Houses of Parliament was built in 1858.

These days, you can get a great view of Big Ben from the London Eye, on the opposite bank of the River Thames.

Weltzeituhr or World Time Clock, Berlin, Germany

Weltzeituhr or Worldtime Clock, Berlin

Standing 10 metres tall, the World Time clock is also a popular meeting point in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.

It features a revolving cylinder with the world’s 24 time zones. The current time in each zone is visible.

The clock is topped by a model of the solar system, which revolves once a minute.

Verdensur, Copenhagen, Denmark


Jen Olsen’s World Clock  is an astronomical clock in the Copenhagen City Hall.

This beauty boasts 12 movements and more than 14,000 parts.

Displays on the world clock include lunar and solar eclipses, position of stellar bodies and a perpetual calendar.

Orion, Prague


This is a medieval clock in the capital of the Czech Republic.

First installed in 1410, the clock is said to be the third eldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one that is still working.

Mounted on the wall of the city hall in Prague’s Old Town, the clock  features an hourly parade of figurines known as the ‘Walk of the Apostles’.

A skeleton representing death strikes the time.

Eastgate clock, Chester, UK


This clock and gateway mark an entrance to the original Roman fortress of Deva Victrix.

The Chester landmark is believed to be the most photographed clock in England behind Big Ben.

The original East gate was guarded by a timber tower, which was replaced by stone in the 2nd century.

Today’s gate dates from 1768 and the clock was added in 1899 to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria two years earlier.

Grand Central Station, New York, USA


This four-metre (13 foot) clock decorates the facade of Grand Central Rail Station facing 42nd Street.

The clock is a popular landmark and meeting place for New Yorkers and has appeared in many movies and television shows.

It is the world’s biggest collection of Tiffany glass.

Chronophage, Cambridge UK


Located in the British university city of Cambridge, this clock is certainly eye-catching.

Opened in 2008, it is called the Corpus Christi Clock or Chronophage, which means ‘Time Eater’ in Greek.

If the gold-coloured disc doesn’t catch your attention, the big grasshopper certainly will

The grasshopper moves around the disc, gobbling up time right before your eyes.


Ankeruhr, Vienna, Austria


This colourful clock was designed in 1911 and completed three years later.

It shows the time by moving different historical figures across the clock face every hour.

The best time of day to see this clock is noon, when all the figures are on display.

Ankeruhr is located in the Hoher Markt.


Other notable clock that we’ve seen, but not photographed, include Saint Mark’s clock at Venice and the Olympic Torch and Clocktower at Barcelona, Catalonia.

We’ve been told that the Cosmo Clock 21 at Yokohama, Japan (shown below) and the Santa Maria Cathedral clock in Comayague, Honduras are well worth seeing. The latter is said to be the oldest functioning clock in the Americas.


Photo courtesy Popular Mechanics

Share your favourite clocks

Do you have any favourites? Love to hear your thoughts.

Features Humorous

Underground secrets proving a hit

More of London’s secret underground world has been revealed.

After visiting the Churchill war rooms on our last trip to the English capital, we were fascinated to hear about guided tours deep beneath the city.


The ‘Hidden London’ tour program has been organised by London Transport Museum and has proved a big hit.

According to the museum’s website, all but one of the tours has been sold out until September.

Apparently, the secret world beneath London has really caught the public imagination.

Some hints of this underground world can be seen at street level – the odd ventilation shaft or drain cover might lead to an abandoned military bunker or one of London’s 13 subterranean rivers.

Churchill secretly took refuge at Down Street station during the height of the Blitz bombing raids on London in World War II.
The station had operated as part of the Tube to 1932 before it became a bomb-proof bunker.


Located between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park stations, Down Street was covertly transformed into the Railway Executive Committee’s bomb-proof bunker.

As well as a secret air raid shelter for the Prime Minister, the narrow tangle of tunnels also served as the nerve centre of England wartime railways.


Photo: Memorable Destination

Additional photography tours of the dark and deserted passageways under Euston Station have also proved popular with Instagrammers.


If the Hidden London tours are half as interesting as the Churchill War Rooms, it is a worthwhile venture indeed.

The program is yet another exciting initiative by London Transport Museum  and we are keen to review the tours and let you know the outcome.

Another prominent underground city exists beneath the countryside near the English city of Bath.

Photo credit: Photos courtesy London Transport Museum. Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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