Administrators query on Retail Adventures’ solvency

Administrators appointed to Retail Adventures are investigating whether the failed discount retailer – which is being sold back to Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron this week – was insolvent more than a year before its collapse.
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A meeting of the company’s creditors committee was told last month that the administrators, led by Deloitte’s Vaughan Strawbridge, are investigating ”whether or not the company was insolvent” at the time charges over the company’s assets were granted to Ms Cameron in July 2011. The company went into administration in October 2012.

The administrators are also investigating two payments to ”related creditors” the month Retail Adventures collapsed, according to documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

”The administrators’ investigations continue, particularly in relation to recoveries that could be available in respect of preference payments that may have been made,” the report said. The administrators’ investigations would be critical in determining whether there is legal action worth pursuing – in liquidation – on behalf of 1700 creditors owed $270 million.

Ms Cameron is expected to offer a deed of company arrangement as an alternative to liquidation.

She bought the Retail Adventures business out of receivership for $80 million in 2009, and has secured loans totalling $77 million from funding she provided as the business lost $110 million in the three years she ran it. She is using part of her $77 million secured debt to acquire the business back from the administrators for $59 million. Unsecured creditors, owed $165 million, stand to receive nothing from the sale.

Another company owned by Ms Cameron, DSG has run the business on behalf of the administrators. It will now own and run the restructured operation.

Administrators have said there might be grounds to reduce Ms Cameron’s secured debt from $77 million to $27 million, in which case the balance of what DSG owes on the transaction would be paid in cash.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Euro threat precipitates flight of capital from Cypriot banks

Capital flight from Cyprus has accelerated since eurozone politicians began threatening losses for bank depositors, and may have reached 12 per cent of the country’s GDP over the past month.
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Sources say lenders haemorrhaged €1 billion ($A1.3 billion) in deposits over the first two weeks of February, heightening fears that even talk of ”haircuts” is deepening the banking crisis as rescue talks drag on between the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and the island’s new leaders. The Bank of Cyprus reported deposit losses of €1.7 billion in January.

Brussels has warned against haircuts for depositors, a drastic move avoided in bailouts for Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.

Cypriot Finance Minister Michael Sarris told eurozone colleagues this week that such action would shatter confidence and set off a fresh round of the debt crisis.

”There is no way we can entertain the idea of any kind of haircut to any kind of deposits. This would be an accident in the eurozone not caused by markets, but a self-inflicted wound, a self-inflicted catastrophe, not only for Cyprus, but for the eurozone and perhaps even beyond.”

The crisis in Cyprus is now deepening on every front. The jobless rate hit 22 per cent in February. The country will run out of money to pay its bills in May. An internal report by Brussels says the bank rescue costs may push public debt to 145 per cent of GDP, implying that debt relief will be needed.

Since European leaders have vowed not to repeat the mistake made in Greece where they set off a broader crisis by imposing wipe-out losses on investors, this means that the burden may fall on taxpayers in Germany and the European Monetary Union core.

The Cypriot crisis has been neuralgic in Germany ever since a leaked report alleged that the island was a haven for Russian organised crime. Nicosia agreed this week to a money-laundering probe but it is unclear whether this will placate critics in the Bundestag. Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats said the business model of Cyprus was based on ”Russian oligarchs, Serb mafias, and tax evaders”.

Bankers say the attacks on Cyprus are deeply confused. Most of the Russian money is in Cypriot branches of Russian banks that are solid, or in large British banks.

”There is no chance that they will go after these banks because it would be illegal and amount to expropriating the Russian state,” one banker said.

The Cyprus Mail says the outgoing Communist government whipped up hysteria against the banks to divert blame from its own mismanagement.

Telegraph, London

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Victoria out to ice finals berth

After a season of squandered success in both the Twenty20 and one-day competitions, Victoria is desperate to all but guarantee a Sheffield Shield final berth with victory against arch rival NSW.
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The Bushrangers lead the shield ladder with two rounds remaining, although their recent record could make such a position a liability, given they lost the one-day Cup final they hosted, and their Big Bash League affiliates – the first-placed Victorian Renegades and third-placed Victorian Stars – were both eliminated in the semi-finals.

Victoria has the smoothest run to the shield final.

It boasts a four-point buffer and its last two opponents – NSW and Tasmania – occupy the bottom two rungs.

An outright win against the Blues in the match starting at the MCG on Thursday would mean the only way it could miss the final would be if South Australia and Queensland, ranked second and third respectively, each win their last two matches outright and the Bushrangers do not get any points against Tasmania.

Furthermore, the Bushrangers go into the match against NSW with the most formidable head-to-head home record in the shield over the past 20 years. NSW has only won once at the MCG in that period, in 1995-96.

But Victorian coach Greg Shipperd said he was wary of the “strong rivalry” between the teams. “The game is very important for us to take points out of it to secure a final position, which may give us some breathing space going into the back-end of the season,” he said.

“We certainly want to build on our outright win of last game [against Queensland]. We thought that was a really positive response after the two games against South Australia.”

The Bushrangers go into the match with a squad of 13, recalling all-rounder John Hastings after Australia A duty and preferring fit-again paceman Jayde Herrick to Scott Boland.

The Blues have been bolstered by the return of Ben Rohrer and Josh Hazlewood, also from Australia A duty, as replacements for Tim Cruickshank and Chris Tremain.

They will also feature a new captain, with the respected Rohrer leading in place of Steve O’Keefe, who cited a desire to focus on an international recall as the trigger for his resignation.

VICTORIA (from): White (c), Ahmed, Handscomb, Hastings, Herrick, Hill, D Hussey, Mckay, Quiney, Rogers, Rose, Sheridan, Stoinis.

NSW (from): Rohrer (c), Bollinger, Copeland, Dawson, Haddin, Hazlewood, Henry, Maddinson, Nevill, O’Keefe, Sandhu, Zampa.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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CRICKET: Clubs reveal NDCA vision

STOCKTON-Raymond Terrace and University have publicly issued their own draft plans on the future structure of Newcastle district cricket.
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Stockton’s proposal is to introduce all 40-over one-day cricket for third and fourth grade, while Uni have proposed a regional premier league that includes clubs from the Central Coast, Maitland and Hunter Valley.

The two clubs join Toronto Workers, which issued an alternative plan to the Newcastle District Cricket Association’s vision for an eight-team premier league last month.

Stockton believe the shorter format of the game appeals more to increasingly time-poor younger cricketers and will slow the exodus of players to City and Suburban cricket.

While Stockton have been supporters of the NDCA’s premier league in first grade, president Ron Hancock said attention first needed to be placed on the lower grades.

‘‘We believe the NDCA should start at the bottom and work upwards, not at the top and work down,’’ Hancock wrote. ‘‘The formation of a premier league will not be successful unless we get our house in order first, and in fact we might improve the existing 12-team structure and there may not be a need for an eight-team format.’’

Uni held a meeting of 30members and have proposed a more radical approach.

The club supports an eight-team premier league, but to maintain the strength of the underpinning first division Uni believe sides from Maitland, the Hunter Valley and Central Coast should be introduced.

Those sides would be eligible for promotion to the premier league.

The NDCA has sought interest from Maitland and Central Coast about joining the competition without success.

‘‘We don’t think the structure proposed by the NDCA is a workable solution, but that doesn’t mean we’re just going to say no to any sort of reform and not be constructive,’’ Uni president Ben Smee said.

‘‘The idea we have circulated is not the club’s formal position. It’s certainly not designed to be a grand solution to all our problems.

‘‘It’s an idea that came from our meeting that is designed to generate some discussion about how to improve cricket in the long term.’’

Meanwhile, a meeting organised by Western Suburbs lower-grader Ross Declerck on Monday night at Cardiff RSL Club was poorly attended.

Eight people from five clubs – Wests, Newcastle City, Waratah-Mayfield, Toronto Workers and Cardiff-Boolaroo – attended the meeting, which focused on keeping predominantly two-day cricket in all grades. Declerck hopes to meet with the NDCA.

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KNIGHTS: Gidley delighted with placement program 

DURING his countless hours as a Western Suburbs junior kicking a footy around Kentish Oval, Kurt Gidley often dreamed of playing ‘‘across the road’’ at Hunter Stadium.
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Now in his 13th NRL season, the Knights captain is planning on making regular trips back ‘‘across the road’’ to Harker Oval as the Rosellas’ club ambassador.

The Knights player placement program with the Newcastle Rugby League was launched yesterday at No.2 Sportsground.

While it will not be a return to the structure of 2009 when the Knights did not field a NSW Cup side and instead filtered their reserve-graders back into the local league, it is hoped the program will give the grassroots league a boost.

All of the Knights’ NRL squad have been made ambassadors of the nine local clubs.

Gidley, who first played rugby league in the Wests under6s, said he remained a proud Rosella today.

‘‘I don’t think I’ve ever lost touch where my junior club is, and what I got out of playing for Wests as a young junior coming through for the Knights,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘It’s just across the road and they’re a great club and have done a lot for me.’’

While the top Knights like Gidley and fellow Wests junior Jarrod Mullen will not spend time in the local league this season, a host of NSW Cup or National Youth League players could make appearances in the ‘‘Real NRL’’.

Gidley said it was important those players used it as a launching pad.

‘‘It’s up to the attitude of the guys going back and playing in the local comp,’’ he said.

‘‘They need to go back and train and play well to prove to coaches at the Knights that they want to be back at the Knights in first grade or NYC.’’

Most local club bosses were at yesterday’s launch and have been urged by Newcastle Rugby League general manager John Fahey to build relationships with their ambassadors to capitalise on the program.

Wests president Wayne Hore said he hoped to benefit from Gidley’s profile and rugby league ability in junior development.

‘‘Kurt is willing to come back and do clinics with our schoolboys and we’ve got a 17s and 18s, so they’re always welcome to come back and the kids look forward to seeing them,’’ Hore said.

The Rosellas won all three grades last year and will be expected to dominate again.

However, the strugglers like Port Stephens Sharks have recruited strongly and Lakes United have signed an astute coach in former Knights NSW Cup mentor Rip Taylor.

‘‘Some of the other clubs have built up, which is good,’’ Hore said. ‘‘I think the top five will be fairly close, but the others might struggle.’’

CLUB LINK: Kurt Gidley with Wests president Wayne Hore at yesterday’s launch. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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Aku pens new deal at Knights

SO much for Japanese rugby union.
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After speculation that Knights flyer Akuila Uate would receive an offer too good to refuse to switch codes and countries, he re-signed yesterday with Newcastle for four more years.

It is understood whatever interest big-spending clubs in Japan showed in the representative winger did not crystallise into a deal on the table.

That suited Knights officials, who were happy to make Uate one of their highest-paid players – on a deal believed to be worth in the vicinity of $500,000 a season – but had no intention of entering into a bidding war.

‘‘I said right from the start we were never going to be able to compete with Japanese rugby or French rugby or whoever it was out there,’’ Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said yesterday.

‘‘We put a really fair offer on the table, right from the outset, to make our intentions really clear.

‘‘Then we just sat back and waited. We’re pleased to finalise the deal and have Aku in the red and blue for another four years.’’

Asked if the deal that ties Uate up until the end of the 2016 season would make him Newcastle’s best-paid player, Gidley replied: ‘‘He’s certainly in the top tier.

‘‘We think we got the right value for Aku. He deserves to be in the top bracket of earners in our club.’’

Gidley said the Knights were happy to pay top dollar for Uate’s proven strikepower and drawcard status.

In 90 NRL games, the 25-year-old crowd-pleaser has scored 70 tries. He has been Dally M winger of the year for the past three seasons and played in five Tests for Australia and five Origins for NSW.

‘‘He’s a genuine superstar of our game,’’ Gidley said.

‘‘He’s arguably the best finisher in the game, I believe.

‘‘He scores on average 20 tries a year and there’s not many players can bring that to their club. We’re ecstatic to have him on board.

‘‘He’s come through our junior system and something we want to do is hang on to our best players.’’

Gidley said that in the modern game ‘‘it has never been harder to score tries’’, yet Uate continued to find his way to the line.

‘‘It’s quite amazing, his strike rate,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s up there with the Brett Stewarts and the guys who are wonderful finishers in our game.’’

Uate said last night that he was pleased to be staying with the Knights, who he first joined as a 15-year-old soon after immigrating from his native Fiji.

“I love playing for the Knights and am really happy to stay here for the next four years,” he said. “I can’t imagine playing anywhere else and the decision to re-sign was an easy one.

“Now my future is secured I am even more excited about running on to Hunter Stadium on Monday night.”

Newcastle trained with a depleted squad yesterday minus front-rowers Kade Snowden and Willie Mason, who were unavailable because of personal reasons.

Young tyro Zane Tetevano, named to play in Newcastle’s NSW Cup team this weekend, limped off with a leg injury.

AAP reports: Shaun Johnson’s right elbow might not be 100per cent but he is confident it will stand up to the rigours of the Warriors’ opening match against Parramatta in Sydney on Saturday night.

Johnson, 22, has made an earlier than expected return after hyperextending the joint in the Warriors’ win over Brisbane in a trial in Dunedin on February 23.

Johnson said he did all the contact work during training yesterday.

‘‘Passing is another big thing and that seemed to go all right. From Monday’s field session to today’s field session, I’m feeling a lot more confident about it.’’

Having got the all-clear, he was buoyed by being able to be on deck at the start of the season under new coach Matthew Elliott.

He admitted that with the Warriors having a new hooker in Elijah Taylor and a new five-eighth in Thomas Leuluai, it was less than ideal that he was unable to train last week.

RE-SIGNED: Aku Uate at training yesterday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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Just one snag after another

“Regensburg is the northernmost city on the Danube and one of Germany’s oldest towns.
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“We found it absolutely fascinating, because of the architecture and the fact that it’s still so intact.

“The town was largely spared by Allied bombing in World War II and stands today as a mediaeval city with most of its structures preserved.

“When you go and stand on the town’s old stone bridge, it isn’t hard to visualise the Crusaders coming through on their way to fight in the Crusades, or to picture princes and ambassadors coming to visit the town.

“For me, it was very easy to ‘see’ all of that.

“We started our time in Regensburg with an organised shore tour and then had time to explore on our own.

“Viking uses local guides for its tours and they manage to be informative and entertaining at the same time; it’s not just someone droning on about history.

“We enjoyed seeing the grand old buildings, including the landmark ‘Goliath House’ with a huge David and Goliath mural painted on the side, and exploring the little alleys around the town.

“Along with its architecture, Regensburg is known for what is claimed to be the world’s oldest ‘sausage kitchen’, which is next to the stone bridge.

“It has been there so long it apparently catered for the workers who built the bridge.

“People were queuing up to go in, so we didn’t try it, but all they serve is sausages, with mustard and sauerkraut if you want it.

“Regensburg also has a famous confectionary shop, in the downstairs section of Cafe Prinzess, which is opposite the Old Town Hall and is said to be the oldest cafe in Germany.

“I’m not really a chocolate person so I was able to resist temptation, but I was amused by some of the names they gave to the chocolates, such as Barbara’s Kisses, Smart Gloria and Town Councillor’s Draught.

“For those who love to shop, Regensburg has something for everyone, including boutiques, and for those who like golf there is a golf museum.

“You can also just spend your time enjoying good food and local beer while soaking up the wonderful atmosphere of the outdoor cafes and restaurants.”

Value for money

All excursions were included on Robert and Jan’s cruise, which they rated very highly .

“It was like two holidays for the price of one,” Robert says.

“You could stay on board for the entire cruise, just relaxing and enjoying the wonderful scenery, but as a bonus you get to do all these incredible shore excursions.

“I would rank it as the best holiday we’ve ever had.

“We enjoyed it so much we have booked to do another one of their cruises this year.”

WHO Robert Owen of Grafton, NSW, on his first river cruise.

WHAT A day tour of the mediaeval town of Regensburg, Germany.

WHERE Regensburg is on the Danube River in southern Germany.

THE SHIP Robert travelled with his wife Jan on a 15-day cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest on Viking River Cruises’ Viking Idun (vikingrivercruises杭州夜网m.au).

As told to Jane E. Fraser

Have you done an interesting shore excursion? Drop us a line at [email protected]杭州夜网m.au.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Aussies camping it up

Australian actors Rachel Griffiths and Rodger Corser have secured lead roles in Camp, the romantic comedy-drama series set in a holiday camp being produced for the US network NBC in Australia. The series will also star three relatively unknown Australian actors – Dena Kaplan, Tim Pocock and Tom Green. Griffiths will play the ”relentlessly positive” camp leader. Matchbox Pictures will produce 10 episodes of Camp for NBC, with filming to take place on the NSW north coast.
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Ratings could take a dive

Tom Williams, Rachael Finch and Todd McKenney are three of the names in circulation attached to Channel Seven’s diving-with-the-stars format Celebrity Splash. The series is being produced for Seven by Eyeworks, with casting under way at present. The series was announced in 2012 with enormous fanfare, though the British version launched to softer-than-anticipated ratings. An American version is also in development, with American diving champion David Boudia and diving legend Greg Louganis attached.

Property that’s hot property

Foxtel has commissioned a second series of the property series Location Location Location Australia. The series follows hosts (and buyers’ agents) Veronica Morgan and Bryce Holdaway as they help families find their dream homes. The first series, which screened in 2012 on Foxtel’s LifeStyle channel, was one of the highest-rating programs on the channel. The production company Shine Australia will produce the second series of 10 episodes. It will screen later in 2013.

Lost Boys find a place on ABC3

Boutique production house Matchbox Pictures has started filming in Melbourne on a 10-part fantasy action-adventure series for ABC3. The Lost Boys (working title only) follows four mismatched teenage boys who return from a school trip to discover they have come back to an alternate world where they no longer exist. Joel Lok (Tangle, Sea Patrol), Dougie Baldwin (the forthcoming Upper Middle Bogan), Rahart Sadiqzai (Neighbours, Prank Patrol) and newcomer Matthew Testro star in the series. It will screen later in 2013 or in early 2014.

Keeping Victoria’s Secret for two more years

Pay TV platform Foxtel has moved to strengthen its relationship with the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, signing a deal that will keep the annual TV special on Fox8 for two more years. The special, essentially a lingerie runway show, has become a valuable television property worldwide. The first show was staged in 1995 in New York and featured a dozen models including Gail Elliott. It has been broadcast on television since 2001. It aired in 2012 in Australia on Fox8.

Brent’s back for a visit

It’s short (just 27 seconds) and not very sweet (there’s almost zero details on what we’ll see) but a brief teaser trailer from comic Ricky Gervais has sent fans of The Office into a frenzy, with the British icon revealing he has decided to revisit David Brent. It will be just for a ”short mini episode” Gervais says, called The Office Revisited and made for Comic Relief. It will air on the BBC and Gervais’ YouTube channel on March 15.

Judgment day approaches

Speculation is mounting that both Mel B and Guy Sebastian will not return to The X Factor. Fremantle and Seven are casting a new judge line-up that may include LMFAO singer Redfoo. Meanwhile, Fremantle and Channel Nine are also casting a new judging line-up for Nine’s reboot of Australia’s Got Talent. A lot of names are rumoured, including reality star Sharon Osbourne and singer Chris Isaak.

TV Tweets

Only 14 more shoot days and The Office will be over.Rainn Wilson (soon to be out of work, that countdown started last Wednesday) @rainnwilson

THE PAPERBOY: Talk about peeing on Fellini …At the Movies (channelling a less-than-impressed David Stratton) @abcatthemovies

The way things are going with his face, Leonardo Dicaprio could totally play Clive Palmer. #TitanicIIHannah Gadsby (comedian and casting consultant) @Hannahgadsby

Just took a quick look at the ABC password dump. Cracked more than half of the 50,000 password hash dump in 45 secs. Blog post coming …Troy Hunt (internet security expert and not a Friend of the ABC) @troyhunt

Right now all of focus in on Greys and Scandal. No new shows.Shonda Rhimes (executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and denier of persistent rumours) @shondarhimes

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Parental guidance

“We’re all intrigued” … Flip Byrnes and her parents savour the sights and sounds of Marocco.With her daredevil parents in tow, Flip Byrnes finds lots to love about this North African gem.
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In a cool riad courtyard in Fes at midnight, I’m being serenaded by an employee, Jamal, with Blowin’ in the Wind in Arabic. Waving a cigarette lighter, we giggle like teenagers while my parents sleep upstairs. But we’re not teens; Jamal has a beard and I’m mid-30s, undertaking what many Gen Xers would consider sheer lunacy — a 10-day Moroccan odyssey with my sixtysomething parents.

To clarify, I really like my parents, as uncool and as unfashionable as that may be. Their good-natured appeal is wide.

In recent years they have turned the tables on their adult children and have been having a whale of a time, sending postcards from ruin clambering in Syria, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia and even going MIA (en route to Mauritius, mum wound up in Mumbai).

So to join their adventures is a hot ticket, a chance to experience Grandparents Gone Wild firsthand, a new twist on intergenerational travel usually involving travelling with babies, not parents. The question is, can I keep up?

The destination is easy: Morocco. We’re all intrigued. It’s off the beaten track enough to be alluring, yet safe to wander. There’s rich cultural fabric to unweave, ruins that need fixing, ancient alleyways hiding crockery for a new house and delicious cuisine. Add the promise of unexpected adventure and we have a unanimous winner.

We have a buffer against the unknown, Michele, an Australian expat married to Fes local Youssef. These owners of Yomikha Morocco agency have developed an itinerary with room to mosey. They’ll take us from Fes to Marrakesh, Chefchaouen and Essaouira, arranging accommodation and guides. In short we have space, but with local, expert back-up.

Back-up is required before even arriving to meet the parentals in Fes.

The budget airline cancels my flight from Paris. Magical Michele springs into action and a car awaits the new, 2am flight. Driving to a solid wall with narrow opening (the 13th-century wall that encircles Fes el Bali, old Fes, a UNESCO World Heritage site), we wake a sleeping figure with our headlights. It’s Jamal, of Dar El Menia riad. There are no cars in Fes and few lamps. Without this personal nocturnal rendezvous, even Hansel and Gretel couldn’t find the riad with a breadcrumb trail, located as it is in the labyrinthine heart of one of the world’s oldest mediaeval cities.

I find mum and dad breakfasting on the rooftop terrace overlooking the medina and arid, rolling surrounds. Dad announces that the previous day he “cased the joint”. “It’s amazing!” he says enthusiastically. “You’re going to love it.”

To gain my bearings, I take a two-hour tour. The medina covers 350 hectares, with 9400 alleyways, 220 mosques, 67 hammans, 65 bakeries and 84 fountains. Founded in AD789, the medina is divided into communities, each with a furnace (most kitchens don’t have fires) where women take bread and tagines to be immersed in embers; a fountain, school, hamman and, Fes being the spiritual capital of Morocco, a mosque.

The alleyways are pedestrian-only and goods are transported on donkeys, the Vespas of the medina. They gallop around corners, with different jobs. There are food-carrying donkeys, material-carrying donkeys and the garbage donkey, who clearly drew the short straw.

It’s a moving, visual feast. Stolen glimpses through doorways (with high door knockers for those on horseback, lower for those on feet) reveal intricate mosaics and limpid atrium pools. Figures float by in djellaba, kaftans with hoods and leather slippers with curling toes.

The scent of the mediaeval honeycomb-shaped tanneries is the undiluted, pungent smell of 500 years of history, while the call to prayer resonates from stone walls.

“Whatever is beautiful, cannot be expensive at any price. What is enthralling is never costly,” stated Abou Inan, who built the Bou Inania Medersa (a theological college) in 1350. The result? Unparalleled beauty, with zellij (puzzlework mosaics) and panels of plaster and egg white stucco featuring finely carved Koranic verses decorating every surface of the marble paved courtyard.

Among Fes’s treasures is also the world’s oldest university

(Al-Karaouine), constructed in AD859, 500 years before Cambridge and the Sorbonne. Al-Karaouine continues as a leading Muslim spiritual and educational centre, having created Islamic/European cultural and academic relations in the Middle Ages. (The cartography here aided European Renaissance exploration).

For our trio, Fes is spell binding. And during a cooking adventure we discover it’s the 250,000 inhabitants who make Fes special. Mum has one cooking rule — no bulls’ testicles. We leave pa to make a tagine (Michele organises chef and translator), while we join Gail, a British expat and Fes resident who organised Heston Blumenthal’s Moroccan feast episode. Today we’ll learn that the tanjia (an elongated pot slow cooking “anything you like”) had Heston quivering.

Setting up on a butcher’s alleyway, Gail sends us to purchase ingredients, enforcing cultural immersion. It’s a cooking lesson unlike any other, surrounded by skinned horse hooves and lambs’ brains. The butcher checks our progress, adding saffron, ground mince and onions to our preserved lemon and herbs. Delivering the tanjia to the furnace causes a scene. Strangers stop to inspect our ingredients, nodding approval or offering suggestions: “Garlic! You need more garlic!” All smile to see foreigners attempting their traditional dish.

Returning, we sniff troughs of orange blossom like truffle pigs and stop by the honey souk.

Reluctantly we leave for Marrakesh.

Immediately, Marrakesh differs from Fes in one crucial way. The donkeys were hazardous yet charming, unlike the scooters tearing through Marrakesh’s alleyways belching black smoke. If the sound of clopping hooves is the lullaby of Fes, the yammer of two-stroke motors are the unwelcome whine of Marrakesh.

But for shoppers, thesouk is an Aladdin’s cave of exotic loot, including Arabian lights, wooden doors and gleaming gold. Modern maalems (master craftsmen) reinvigorate trades, such as blacksmithing, saddle-making and lute-carving. And pottery.

We visit must-see sights; the Bahia Palace, Saadia tombs and Koutoubia Minaret. But visiting the seedy Jamaa el Fna square night markets, the sinister ambience makes us instinctively cluster together. While the souk harassment (so unlike laid-back Fes) has been tolerable, now we’re beleaguered and badgered.

At one point I run, horrified, to intercept men chasing my parents with wooden (lifelike) cobras. Not funny, then or in hindsight.

Having a male is a distinct blessing. “Where’s your husband?” hisses a passerby. Don’t have one. The next question is inevitable. “Your father?” Right there! Seeing I’m chaperoned, they slink away. Go dad!

We leave Marrakesh on a good note. We’re keen to wander Yves Saint Laurent’s Majorelle Jardin, in particular the cactus gardens. There are 44 types of cacti in the garden and they’re flowering, transfixing us with tiny, rare buds. It’s an unexpected Marrakesh gem and with my parents’ botanical knowledge, mesmerising.

Finally, at seaside Essaouira, it’s time to part. The parentals are accustomed to my regular intrepid travel writing departures, but leaving a daughter on the roadside in the Moroccan wilderness (slight exaggeration) must be disconcerting.

Pa holds me close, and pats me on the shoulder. “Stay safe,” he whispers out of mum’s earshot, and I know he means it.

Trip notes

Getting there

Etihad flies from Sydney to Casablanca five times weekly, from $1800. 1300 532 215, etihad杭州夜网m.

Touring there

Fes-based Yomikha Morocco, formed by an Australian-Moroccan couple, creates bespoke, economical itineraries. [email protected]杭州夜网m, +212 642 0704 601.

Doing there

Take a food tour with UK expat Gail Leonard. fez-food杭州夜网m.

For distinctive blue and white pottery, visit a ceramics factory such as Art Naji, 20 QI, Ain Nokbi. +212 535 669 166.

In Marrakesh, visit Yves Saint Laurent’s cactus garden. jardinmajorelle杭州夜网m.

More information

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Hot food trend: Yuzu

Grilled prawns with yuzu dressing. Photo: Photo: Edwina PicklesWhat is it?
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What the lime is to Thai cuisine, the yuzu is to Japanese cooking. A small, yellow-skinned citrus, it’s loved for its tart, smack-in-the-mouth tang. Fresh fruit is difficult to source, but yuzu juice is increasingly available from Asian food stores and specialists. ”It’s as much a fragrance as a taste,” importer Leigh Hudson of Chef’s Armoury says. ”Use it anywhere you would use lemon juice. It’s mind-blowingly delicious.”

Where is it?

VICTORIA

At Matteo’s in Fitzroy North, chef Brendan McQueen serves poached meringue with a heart of yuzu ice-cream, with nashi pear and salted pistachio crumbs. “We use it in both sweet and savoury dishes,” he says. “We do a yuzu butter sauce that’s great for fish and for heirloom carrots. It’s pretty expensive, but it goes a long way.”

Head chef Kengo Hiromatsu of Akachochin on South Wharf says using Japanese ingredients such as yuzu juice makes him happy. “It has 100,000 uses in the kitchen,” he says. “We use it for its flavour and its sharpness, for marinades and for curing.”

One of the most popular dishes on the menu is a salad of ocean trout marinated in yuzu juice, soy, garlic and grape seed oil, then drizzled with truffle oil and served over mixed leaves. “We marinate the fish for just two minutes to keep it tasting very fresh,” Hiromatsu says.

At the newish Nama Nama in Spring Street, yuzu winds up in everything from a little breakfast teacake to a “lime spider” of yuzu, green melon liqueur, ice-cream and soda. “It has a wonderfully mandarin-lemony flavour with a little sea-salty kick,” co-owner Simon Denton says. “If you close your eyes, you feel as if you’re in Japan.”

NSW

At the tiny Cafe Cre Asion in Surry Hills, Yu Sasaki makes swoon-worthy macarons in 15 different flavours daily, and yuzu is always one of them. ”It cuts through the sweetness of the meringue beautifully,” he explains.

Sepia chef Martin Benn charcoal-smokes freshwater eel and serves it with a tangy fresh yuzu curd, pistachios, tapioca, liquorice, watercress and nasturtiums. ”Yuzu is one of my favourite things ever,” he says. ”The taste is somewhere between a lemon and a mandarin, with lightly floral notes. People just go ‘wow’ ”.

In Bronte, Mark LaBrooy and Darren Robertson of Three Blue Ducks work yuzu into both sweet and savoury dishes, from scampi with avocado mousse and yuzu curd to a dessert of yuzu curd with burnt meringue.

At the forthcoming Taste of Sydney food festival in Centennial Park (March 14-17), they’ll be doing toasted marshmallow with yuzu curd and chocolate ganache. ”It’s quite potent,” LaBrooy says. ”But it makes those dishes in which you would normally use lemon or lime juice much more interesting.”

Why do I care?

Because there’s nothing else quite like it: tart, bright and refreshing.

Can I do it at home?

What’s Japanese for yes? Mix yuzu and soy for a quick Japanese ”ponzu” dip for fish and seafood, add to vinaigrettes, mayonnaise and the odd vodka cocktail.

Sourcing it

VICTORIA

Matteo’s, 533 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 9481 1177.

Nama Nama, 31 Spring Street, city, 9639 9500.

Akachochin, Shed 7, 33 Dukes Walk, South Melbourne, 9245 9900.

Chef’s Armoury, 422Church Street, Richmond, 94291139, chefsarmoury杭州夜网m

NSW

Sepia, 201 Sussex Street, city 9283 1990.

Cafe Cre Asion, 21 Alberta Street, city, 0404 941 528.

Three Blue Ducks, 143 Macpherson Street, Bronte, 9389 0010.

Chef’s Armoury, 747 Botany Road, Rosebery, 9699 2353, chefsarmoury杭州夜网m

Grilled prawns with yuzu dressing

6 fresh green prawns in shell

Handful of rocket or cress leaves

1 tsp sesame seeds

Togarashi (Japanese sprinkles)

Dressing

1 tbsp yuzu juice

1 tbsp Japanese mirin

4 tbsp grape seed or light olive oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp finely grated garlic

1 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise

1. Heat an overhead grill.

2. Cut the prawns in half lengthwise with a cleaver and devein.

3. Whisk the dressing ingredients together until smooth.

4. Brush the prawns with the dressing and grill them cut-side up for 3 minutes or until just cooked (I like charring the shells a little, too).

5. Arrange on plates with rocket or cress, spoon over the remaining dressing and scatter with sesame seeds and togarashi.

Serves 4 as a starter

TRENDING The disloyalty coffee card. Rather than binding you to one cafe, the disloyalty card encourages you to visit different cafes in the same community. Seen in London, Toronto, Seattle and Singapore.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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