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Archive for December, 2018

Encounters with ancients

America’s natural landscape is home to the history of its people, writes Tim Richards.
Nanjing Night Net

Whether you take your inspiration from spirit guides or the 1990 movie Dances with Wolves, Native American traditions are among the most fascinating ingredients in the United States’ melting pot.

For millennia before that pot existed, these indigenous people lived and thrived across the breadth of what is now known as America. Their ancient cultures live on today. Here are 10 ways to encounter them.

MOON WHEN THE THUNDERBIRDS RETURN

The stars shine bright above the soaring rock formation known as Devil’s Tower, although the guide calls it Mato Tipila, while pointing to constellations featured in the traditions of the Lakota people.

This week-long tour, which departs from Rapid City, South Dakota, combines first-hand experience and ancient knowledge.

Tour members hear about dance and music and the exploits of legendary tribal members, such as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Black Elk.

The highest point of the Black Hills is visited on the trip, as is the sacred Wind Cave where the Lakota believe their story began.

See ndn2rs南京夜网, tour from $1895.

GATHERING OF NATIONS

Spend a few hours in front of the music stage at this huge annual gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and you will realise Native American culture is more diverse than the cliches presented in old westerns.

At North America’s biggest pow-wow, belting rock music is succeeded by country, metal, blues and even reggae.

Elsewhere, traditional dance competitions are fiercely contested, in a whirl of colour and sound.

To wind down, check out the huge traders’ market for authentic native goods, including local foods.

See gatheringofnations南京夜网. Entry $17 a day.

MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK

The Spanish called this area of Colorado “green table”, but a drought 700 years ago left behind its most amazing attraction: the clifftop dwellings built by the Anasazi people, before they moved on. They built their sandstone houses under the overhangs of spectacular canyons, formed by erosion from ancient waterways.

The largest dwelling is known as the Cliff Palace, with 150 rooms that housed 100 people.

Mirroring the colour of the surrounding stone as if merged with it, these remarkable structures prompt visions of the inhabitants’ long-forgotten lives.

See nps.gov/meve. Entry $15 a vehicle.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

A startlingly curved, sand-coloured building, the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. promises something beyond traditional museum displays. Part of the famous Smithsonian Institution, the museum allows a glimpse of the lives of indigenous people in North and South America.

The collection began when New Yorker George Heye bought a Navajo hide shirt in Arizona in 1897. Now, it is an inspirational insight into human adaptability, containing everything from Huron moosehair embroidery to Arctic hunting tools. There is another branch in New York.

See nmai.si.edu. Entry free.

FORT ABRAHAM LINCOLN STATE PARK

An understanding of Native America must include the clashes between European settlers and the native people. It was from this fort on the outskirts of Bismarck, North Dakota’s capital, that Lieutenant-Colonel George Custer rode with his troops to his doomed stand at Little Bighorn.

Visitors can tour his reconstructed house, a model of gentility compared with his violent end. Nearby is On-A-Slant Village, a Native American village with rebuilt earth lodges. An indigenous guide atmospherically draws a picture of everyday life here, over its two centuries of occupation.

See parkrec.nd.gov. Entry $5 a vehicle and $6 a person.

CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL

The presidential heads carved into Mount Rushmore may seem impressive, but they are small fry compared with this project in South Dakota. It aims to blast and carve a huge statue of the warrior Crazy Horse, astride a steed, from the rock of the Black Hills.

It has taken since 1948 just to create the face, and the finished statue would stand at 200 metres wide and 175 metres high.

Whether it is a breathtaking vision or grand folly, it is worth the trip to see it in the making.

See crazyhorsememorial.org. Entry $10.

MONUMENT VALLEY SAFARI

John Wayne would look right at home in Utah’s Monument Valley, and for good reason. With its impressive vertical-walled buttes standing in a striking red landscape, it was a popular location for Hollywood directors of western movies.

Gun-slinging cowboys aside, there is plenty of fascinating culture to discover via the Navajo guides of this family-owned operation. Tours of various lengths are available, from a 90-minute primer to an 18-hour overnight photographic tour, which includes a visit to Anasazi ruins. A great place to stay on site is the View Hotel (monumentvalleyview南京夜网), which looks out over the valley.

See monumentvalleysafari南京夜网. Tours from $60.

INDIAN CULTURE TOUR

There is nothing like hitting the road in the US’s wide open spaces, and this three-day, self-drive road trip crosses the Arizona territory of the Navajo Nation.

Attractions along the way include the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum, whose exhibits range from traditional rugs to creation stories. Check out the historic Tuba City Trading Post and the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise. The drive also reaches the dramatic canyons and ancient ruins of the Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

See discovernavajo南京夜网/indianculturetour.html. Free.

ALASKA NATIVE HERITAGE CENTER

Alaska’s native people are as diverse as the northern landscape is dramatic, and this Anchorage institution reveals their culture and history. It is not just about looking at static displays – visitors can see and take part in storytelling, song, dance and traditional games.

Outside in the woods are six replica homes revealing the traditional lives of Alaskan natives, with locals on site to talk to.

See alaskanative.net. Entry $25.

NATIVE VOICES

You don’t have to head to the remotest corners of the US to experience Native American culture. The Native Voices theatre company stages new works at Los Angeles’ Autry National Center of the American West. Its playwrights, directors and actors express what it is to be Native American in the 21st century.

Highlights of the company’s annual calendar include its festival of new plays in May-June and a short play festival in November.

See theautry.org. Museum entry $10, play admission free.

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Cellars market

Clare Valley. Skillogalee Winery Restaurant. Photo: Mike Annese
Nanjing Night Net

The Clare Valley is a welcoming place for young vignerons and wine lovers of all ages, writes Ute Junker.

If you want to visit Jeffrey Grosset’s cellar door, you have to time it right. Clare Valley’s best-known winemaker opens his cellar door in September each year, and shuts it again when he has sold his stock, which is usually just five or six weeks later.

Few winemakers sell out so quickly but few winemakers can match Grosset’s reputation.

Since he established his Clare Valley winery 33 years ago, Grosset has built an international following, being hailed as one of the Top 10 white winemakers by Britain’s Decanter magazine.

However, Grosset has determinedly kept things “small and focused”, as he tells me when I talk to him at his cellar door.

“We only have five vineyards, which means we can handpick them all,” Grosset says. In a good year, Grosset will make around 12,000 cases of his award-winning wines, including his Polish Hill riesling and Gaia, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. No wonder they sell out fast.

The holistic, handmade approach is a cornerstone of Grosset’s winemaking. “We were doing organic viticulture before people started using the word organic: no chemicals, no organic mulch, no pesticides,” he says.

That intimate approach is one of the Clare Valley’s most appealing traits. Located just 90 minutes north of Adelaide, the Clare Valley is often overshadowed by the Barossa’s big guns. However, if you’re after a wine getaway that includes scenic villages, small scale vineyards and superb wines – particularly its delicious rieslings – Clare Valley is made to order.

There are plenty of big name cellar doors to visit – along with Grosset, other favourites include Annie’s Lane, Tim Adams and Mount Horrocks – but the Clare is a welcoming place for young winemakers. Adam Barton, who is winning acclaim for the wines he makes under the Atlas label, says that thanks to the investment in the wine industry over the past 20 years, “Any young winemaker can work hard, save hard and get together enough money to buy some fruit.”

That’s pretty much what Barton has done. In addition to his popular riesling and shiraz, he has just made his first vermentino. “I’m really, really happy with it,” he says, describing it as sitting somewhere between a riesling and a lean chardonnay. He describes the wine as crisp and fresh, with a range of notes including oyster shell and sea spray, as well as citrus fruits and floral notes.

Although Barton doesn’t have a cellar door, visitors can sample his wines at local restaurants such as Terroir in Auburn. The Clare Valley’s most memorable dining experience comes courtesy of chef Dan Moss, a South Australian who worked in Canada and London before heading back to the Clare Valley to open his first restaurant.

Moss is a dedicated locavore and a chef who likes to get his hands dirty. When I ask where he sources his tender asparagus – steamed for two minutes and served with a polenta-crumbed duck egg glowing like the sun – he replies, “I picked that yesterday morning in Mr Slugget’s garden.”

Mr Slugget is just one of his local suppliers; as we chat, another keen local gardener walks into the restaurant with a box of mixed greens for Moss to peruse.

“I get everything I can within a 100-mile basis, although the butter comes from further afield,” he says. “I’d love to get it down to five kilometres.”

It’s not just the food that’s local at Terroir, Moss’s new restaurant. The airy homestead is decorated with antiques, as well as striking artwork by local artist Jen Prior.

The pared-back dishes showcase his farm-fresh ingredients. “I want to keep the integrity, keep the taste,” he says.

The chicken terrine – made from scratch using the whole bird – is served with smoked, spiced almonds and a few drops of lemon cream. Delicate stalks of tempura broccolini and a turnip and carrot pickle, accompany the beef carpaccio, made from scotch fillet.

“For me, flavour trumps tenderness every time,” Moss says.

After lunch at Terroir, it’s time for some exploring. Auburn lies just around the corner from Clare’s prettiest village, Mintaro, which is graced with an extraordinary collection of 18th century bluestone houses. Stop in at Reilly’s Cellars to try the aromatic rieslings and rich shirazes, or enjoy a snack in its dining room.

Jen Prior’s gallery, Iron Gate Studio, is around the corner. Also in the area is Martindale Hall, a grand Georgian mansion that featured as the boarding school in the film, Picnic at Hanging Rock. If you’re planning a picnic, the township of Clare is the place to stock up on quality food. Try the homemade chicken liver pate at Artisan’s Table, or pick up some gourmet sausages at Mathies Meat, where you’ll also find a selection of game as well as house-cured ham.

Sevenhill is home to the area’s oldest winery, Sevenhill Cellars. Established by the Jesuits in 1851 to make sacramental wine, the winery is still going strong.

Take a stroll through the tranquil grounds, taking a peek inside the imposing St Aloysius church while you’re there.

Alternatively, at Sevenhill you can hire a bike to ride the Riesling Trail, a former rail track that links a series of vineyards along its 35-kilometre trail.

The best local accommodations share the intimate, hands-on atmosphere that defines the Clare Valley. Those who like a touch of the city with their country experience will love Thorn Park by the Vines. Set on a lovely bush block just outside Sevenhill, a stay in this chic, three-room retreat feels like visiting friends. David Hay and Michael Speers are welcoming hosts, offering not just a superb library but also plenty of cosy corners in which to curl up with one of their books.

Dinner is a highlight of any stay, with Hay cooking up an extravagant repast while you watch.

Alternatively, if you prefer a touch of grandeur, North Bundaleer homestead makes up for its more remote location with spectacular interiors. Beautifully restored by its owners, Marianne and Malcolm Booth, this magnificent pastoral property is an enchanting relic of the area’s heyday.

The writer travelled with the assistance of South Australian Tourism.

TRIP NOTES

STAYING THERE

Thorn Park by the Vines, 37 Quarry Road, Clare, phone 08 8843 4304, see thornpark南京夜网.au. Superb degustation dinners are part of the attraction at this boutique hideaway with just three rooms.

North Bundaleer Homestead, RM Williams Way, Jamestown, phone (08) 8665 4024, see northbundaleer南京夜网.au. At the far end of the valley, this grand pastoral homestead is a hidden treasure.

EATING THERE

Terroir Auburn, Main North Road, Auburn, phone (08) 8849 2509.

Skillogalee Restaurant, Hughes Park Road, Sevenhill, phone (08) 8843 4311, see skillogalee南京夜网.au.

DRINKING THERE

Grosset Wines, King Street, Auburn, phone 08 8849 2175, see grosset南京夜网.au.

Sevenhill Cellars, College Road, Sevenhill, phone (08) 8843 4222, see sevenhill南京夜网.au.

MORE INFORMATION

southaustralia南京夜网.

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Home and away

Illustration: Michael Mucci.It’s not just about the journey, writes Lance Richardson, it’s about your starting blocks.
Nanjing Night Net

‘There’s no place like home,” said Dorothy Gale in 1939, refusing to see she was on the greatest adventure of her life.

Or at least it always seemed that way to me: The Wizard of Oz is a tragedy cloaked in soft-focus romance. On one hand she has monochrome Kansas, where women of the era had few options in life; on the other hand she has a Technicolor landscape of glittering cities, obliging locals, and mysterious wilderness areas where lions, tigers and bears co-exist in a single ecosystem.

Dorothy chooses Kansas. Still, she does get one thing right: there is no place like home.

Perhaps home is a dreary prairie prone to freak meteorological events, but it is a place of belonging and a crucial point of comparison (“Things are different back home,” I often hear in conversations on the road). Home can be the town a person grows up in, or the city they choose to occupy in later life.

The term is used in association with homeland, “Vaterland”, or mother country. For many people home is a safe haven, like the proverbial tornado shelter built for protection.

For travellers it is significant for two additional reasons: travelling is largely an expedition to see other peoples’ homes; and our own homes act as a sort of anchor, with every journey just a circuitous route of return.

The moment you step out the front door you are already on your way back home again.

At its most basic level, home is embodied in the house.

The human compulsion to see how people live is as old as the idea of globetrotting. Herodotus, visiting ancient Egypt, took time out from his tour of temples and palaces to stick his head in a few houses and observe the rituals.

“If a cat dies in a private house by a natural death, all the inmates of the house shave their eyebrows,” he recorded. “On the death of a dog they shave the head and the whole of the body.”

Marco Polo, meeting the Tartars on the Eurasian steppe in the 13th century, also found “plenty to tell” on the subject of domestic arrangements. “Their houses are circular, and are made of wands covered with felts,” he wrote.

“These are carried along with them whithersoever they go.”

The Tartars were wide-ranging nomads and their lifestyle was expressed through their houses.

Today, the nosiness of Herodotus and Marco Polo resurfaces every time a person goes on a tour of Sao Paulo’s raucous favelas; or visits a Maasai “boma”, where cows and humans live in symbiosis; or stalks past the mansions of Beverly Hills, a suburb transformed by wealth into a gated community. Private houses trump public museums for educational value because peeking inside one is like seeing a culture through the back door. What you glimpse there is not an official picture, sanctioned by authorities; it is culture as lived reality. Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes. It is something alive.

I have visited many different homes around the world, stayed in several, and never found the experience less than compelling, whether in Cusco, Peru, or an electrified compound in Johannesburg, South Africa.

In Vietnam, in a mountainous village of Tay people, a woman once invited me inside a three-storey concrete house that was surrounded by modest shacks. The home was cavernous. Except for a mattress and a television mounted on a wall, it was also entirely bare.

The woman lingered over the television, making sure I paid attention, and then she exhibited the empty rooms with a proud, proprietary flourish. It was a “show home” – it showed modernity, prosperity, the luxury of space.

She took me up to the roof where, because of the size disparity, she lorded over the neighbours like a queen in her castle. The home said something significant about Vietnamese aspirations; this woman was living the dream and I had been invited in to appreciate it.

Something very different unfolded in Oman, a country where Bedouin nomads still drift through the deserts in camps of carpets and tents. In the small city of Nizwa, I was once asked to dine at the middle-class home of a souk vendor. He toured me through his menagerie of birds and cats, I admired his photo of the sultan, and then we settled down on the floor for a lesson in dining etiquette. But my interest quickly drifted to what I hadn’t seen – namely, almost everything. The majlis, or sitting room, keeps living quarters completely out of sight.

There was no kitchen or bathroom or bedroom on view. And the majlis was only for men (the women had their own room, which I could not enter). Here was a home built for people who prioritise concealment from strangers. Here was a culture where doors, rituals, and veiling are common expectations.

Perhaps the most remarkable home I ever stayed in was on Kodiak Island in Alaska.

The American owner, Steele, had bought and occupied an abandoned salmon cannery in the wilderness. It was difficult to reach and all but impossible to escape from; if exposure didn’t get you, the bears would. Most of the factory had fallen into disrepair since the early 1980s, when workers put their tools down and walked away. Crumbling offices fitted out with typewriters stood beside a dusty processing floor scattered with buoys and empty packing boxes.

But Steele’s ingenuity had made it strangely homey: an anti-tank missile case became a coffee table (“I found it out back,” he told me); doors of the living quarters were decorated with the imprints of fish, dipped in ink like a stamp.

For dinner he left a roasted king crab on the kitchen bench.

I had heard that Alaska had a reputation for eccentrics and outcasts, but spending several days here helped me push past the stereotype. What I found in that unusual home was honest, unforgettable – the best travel experience of my life so far.

But what about the traveller’s home, and that “homing” impulse represented by the return ticket?

Travel, for most people, gains meaning precisely through its contrasting of strange spaces with familiar ones. Home is a necessary counterpoint.

Indeed, home is what motivates the most famous journey of all time: The Odyssey, by Homer.

Having ventured to Troy and succeeded in battle, Odysseus attempts to sail back to Ithaca, where his family is waiting . . . and waiting, and waiting.

Along the way he is taunted by a Cyclops, attacked by cannibals, confronted by the dead, lured by sirens, besieged by a six-headed monster, and shipwrecked on Calypso’s island for seven years.

But he keeps on going anyway.

Odysseus’s most telling encounter comes in the land of the lotus-eaters, where his crew are offered flowers “so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return”.

Leave off caring about home? Odysseus finds the prospect horrifying. “Though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches,” he says. A traveller who loses their sense of home is hopelessly lost. Beyond physical houses, the very idea of it orients us like a compass.

It takes Odysseus a decade to get back to Ithaca, but the memory pulls him right through to the end.

It took me nearly as long to get back to the town where I grew up, tucked away in a fold of the Hunter Valley. My family moved on long ago, but this, my first home, has been the mental contrast to many of my adventures around the world. Preparing to move abroad, I figured it was time to measure how reality compared to the dusty image in my head; a tiny odyssey of my own.

One Friday in July I climbed into a car with a friend I have known for 20 years and we drove up the highway back to Muswellbrook.

There were no sirens, six-headed scyllas or cannibals along the way but there were plenty of coal mines – monstrous black mouths devouring hills all around the town. We drove past them to happier scenes: wineries set in picturesque backcountry, and old picnic spots around Glenbawn Dam. We even visited our high school, which looked smaller than I remembered, echoing with the apparitions of deja vu.

Eventually we drove down my old street and spotted the brick letterbox my father built – a letterbox I once sat on to wait for a university letter that would be my first ticket out of there.

Perhaps there is no travel destination more stuffed with history and memorable sights than the place you set out from and call home; not glittering cities, scenic roadways, nor strange wilderness areas filed with lions and tigers and bears. And perhaps it isn’t until you go back there, putting your bags down after a long trip away, that you understand how far travelling can actually take you.

ABOUT THE WRITER

New York-based Lance Richardson is a writer and photographer specialising in culture and history, with a particular interest in anthropology.

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Flight test: Qantas 747 jumbo jet business class

Qantas business class service.THE ROUTE
Nanjing Night Net

New York (JFK) to Sydney (via Los Angeles).

THE PLANE

Boeing 747-400.

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END

Business, seat 1J.

TIME IN THE AIR

Six hours, 10 minutes from JFK to LA; two-hour stopover in LA; 14 hours, 45 minutes from LA to Sydney. An ill passenger delays our departure from LA and we arrive 40 minutes late into Sydney.

THE SEAT STUFF

Stylish silver and purple capsule-style Skybed seat in a 2-3-2 arrangement. Plenty of storage with a large pocket in the seat in front and a privacy screen if you don’t like the look of your neighbour. Seats are infinitely adjustable and recline to a fully flat, two-metre-long bed. Seat width: 61 centimetres; pitch: 152 centimetres.

BAGGAGE

Business class passengers get three checked pieces (32 kilograms each) plus two carry-on bags (7 kilograms each).

COMFORT FACTOR

The big drawcard of this route is Qantas uses the same plane for both legs, so you don’t have to endure a US domestic carrier from New York to LA. In seat mode the Skybed is comfortable and spacious and when you’re ready to turn in, a flight attendant will make up the bed with a mattress and duvet. Stylish his-and-hers amenity kits from New York designer Kate Spade complement Peter Morrissey’s natty grey pyjamas.

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

The latest instalment of the Q Entertainment system features a dizzying array of choice including 100 movies (15 new releases on this flight), 500 TV programs, 20 radio channels, 80 games and 1000 CDs. Delivery is via a touch-sensitive 30.7-centimetre screen and noise-cancelling headphones. There’s also in-seat power and a USB port.

THE SERVICE

Excellent, particularly on the second leg where the mood is playful and jovial rather than fawning and obsequious. Jackets and coats are whisked away to be hung up and meals and drinks are served and cleared promptly. I accidentally left my laptop onboard during the stopover at LA and it was retrieved and delivered to me without fuss or fanfare. Business class passengers have access to the British Airways Terraces Lounge in JFK and the oneworld alliance lounge in LA. Both are busy but perfectly agreeable places to while away a couple of hours.

FEEDING TIME

Disappointingly, the food on this flight isn’t up to Qantas’ normal high standards. Qantas uses local catering companies in each port and regular business travellers tell me the food on services leaving Australia is generally better. On the first leg my king prawn, chickpea and rocket salad starter is lacklustre and the slow-cooked Moroccan lamb is OK rather than great. The second leg is an improvement with a tasty light supper of pulled pork with tortillas and a decent breakfast of scrambled eggs on toasted brioche with smoked salmon. A welcome glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne and an excellent wine selection help ease the pain.

ONE MORE THING

Qantas business and first customers have access to an invite-only express security channel at JFK.

THE FREQUENCY

Qantas flies daily from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles. A business class flexible return fare costs $14,850.

THE VERDICT

Arguably the most comfortable and stress-free way of getting to and from the Big Apple.

Tested by Rob McFarland, who was upgraded courtesy of Qantas.

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Bob Carr complains about business class

Complimentary plane pyjamas in Qantas business class takes flying to a whole new comfort level.Who would have thought the humble pyjama set would be trending on social media? But thanks to former foreign minister Bob Carr it has.
Nanjing Night Net

In the past couple of weeks, political commentators have been having a lot of fun with Carr’s newly released memoir, Diary of a Foreign Minister, in which, among other things, he lambasts public service rules for denying him confirmed first class seats on planes, leaving him to suffer through long-distance flights in lowly, inferior business class.

One entry, in particular, is causing much mirth. On a trans-Atlantic flight, our short-term foreign minister is particularly irked about finding himself shut out of first class. “Business class,” he notes grumpily. “No edible food. No airline pyjamas. I lie in my tailored suit.”

Let’s not get into the argument about whether our hard-working, peripatetic senior ministers require the comforts of first class to do their job properly. But let’s talk airline pyjamas, for Mr Carr is clearly at a loss without them.

Even on a relatively short flight (by Australian standards) across the Atlantic, he’s forced to sit rigidly in his seat, unaware, perhaps, that the flight attendants will happily hang up his jacket so he arrives uncrumpled and give him a blanket to keep warm and free of spills from the abysmal business class food.

Life is tough on a plane when you don’t have pyjamas, and passengers from first class all the way down to the back of the plane in economy, will tell you that. That’s why you see so many Australian travellers dispense with the inconvenience of changing and front up to check-in in their jimmy jams. I dislike this trend, but I have to say that 24 hours in a narrow seat wearing Peter Alexander’s soft and fluffy bunny-print PJs is probably more comfortable than trying to sleep in a lie-flat bed in your suit, tie and polished shoes.

Now, it is probably quite easy to become dependent on airline pyjamas, especially if you fly Qantas, which no doubt Mr Carr did once or twice. Qantas offers complimentary pyjama sets in both business class and first class on long-haul flights. A Peter Morrissey-designed “flying kangaroo” set of soft grey cotton with a black kangaroo emblazoned across the chest is offered in business and they’re such a fashion statement some of us have been known to wear them in the street.

Fashion icon Bob Downe even wears a pair in his latest show, Bob, Sweat and Tears. He told me: “I wear them for cycling. And the PJs are so comfy! I’ve got somewhere to put my pump.” More than once I’ve been caught out with inclement weather while travelling and find the lightweight Qantas pyjamas work well as an extra layer. If I wear the top as a sweatshirt with the kangaroo logo displayed, people in other destinations think they’ve been made by a groovy street wear label.

Virgin Atlantic distributes black tracksuits to its upper class passengers. I’ve kept the tops and always pack one in my carry-on to keep warm on the plane and to keep myself clean when I invariably spill wonton soup down my front in flight.

Cathay Pacific gives first class passengers organic cotton pyjamas by Hong Kong brand PYE. Singapore hands out Givenchy pyjamas in its suites and first class. British Airways’ pyjamas are emblazoned with the word “First”.

The smartest pair of airline pyjamas I owned were given to me when I flew first class on Etihad to Abu Dhabi. These were not really pyjamas, but a “sleeping suit” of black cotton pants and a top with Swarovski crystals embedded in the collar. Put on some heels, bouff up the hair, and you could probably get away with wearing them to a nightclub in the United Arab Emirates. (Etihad has since replaced them with sensible brown sleeping suits.)

With so many attractive options, it’s easy to see why our erstwhile foreign minister was caught short when he was demoted to business on that flight. Let’s face it, airline pyjamas are probably the perk of a foreign minister’s job.

Without them, flying is no pyjama party.

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