ONE year ago today I stepped off the plane in Brisbane after 14 months of living in Singapore. People sometimes ask me how long it took me to adjust to being back in Queensland. I knew I’d arrived the moment those two tiny Qantas wheels left Changi’s tarmac.
I moved to Singapore one month after Queensland’s devastating 2011 floods. I was battling a personal torrent of my own and needed to shake off those last, pesky, stubborn crumbs of my broken marriage. I, like Queensland, had some healing to do. Suffice to say, it’s been a rocky road for both of us, plagued by potholes and the occasional melt down. That’s the thing about healing, it takes its own damn time and you can’t rush it. And then there’s those inevitable relapses, as Queensland saw again in January this year when the flooding rains returned. As for me, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have some crawl back under the doona days.
But I’ve just spent the past two weeks on assignment out in the Queensland countryside in which I grew up. We were barefoot through the bindi patch kids. Dirt on your cheeks types who didn’t come inside until after dark. Cycled our daggy pushies without helmets, rode in the Kingswood without seat belts, got a scratch and fixed it with a bit of good old-fashioned spit.
And in the past two weeks, I fell in love with my state all over again. Southerners often mock Queensland. They say our weather is too humid. Humid to me is living in Singapore – 100km from the Equator. They say Brisbane is a big country town. If sitting outside by the river on a temperate evening eating food designed by world-class chefs makes us a big country town then yes, we’re epic. Sure, we don’t have daylight savings and our politics are ridiculously conservative. But that just breeds the underground movement of creatives and larrikins I so love here. In Brisbane, strangers still chat to you in the street. Thank the bus driver when they alight. Let your car squeeze in during peak hour traffic.
In the past fortnight, I experienced in spades the friendliness for which Queensland is renowned. In the South Burnett – Joh country – I stumbled across characters, entrepreneurs and optimists. Shirt-off-your-back people where dogs with names like Merlot are the stars of an Australian book about Wine Dogs. A place of dappled sunshine and dimpled smiles.
I met wine makers and farmers’ wives. Ate the local smoked pork, drank the new world Italian reds they are planting out there. Stayed in century-old cottages on hillsides overlooking charming valleys. Did I mention it’s emerald green out there? Yep, after all that rain that so scarred our state, it’s left a legacy of lushness. I took the time for a good old chinwag.
Last week, my travels took me to the Darling Downs. But not the Toowoomba I knew from my childhood – one of haberdashery shops and picnics in the park. Sure, they still exist, but walk past an inner city lane and there’s graffiti art and pop up coffee shops courting the trendy set. Toowoomba is finally embracing its organic food scene. I ate salty olives, fancy French cuisine and slept in an elegant mansion. I stumbled across eclectic art galleries and small designer stores. Had a cuppa with the locals. They keep me honest, no room for egos out here, just kookaburras, galahs and king parrots.
Queensland and I are both a little older and wiser after the past few years. Sure, we’ll always carry our scars, but we’ve also got fire in our bellies. Yes, people sometimes ask me how long it took to adjust to being back in Queensland after Singapore. To be honest, I don’t think I ever really left.
The Global Goddess travelled through Southern Queensland Country as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland. To plan your own escape, go to http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au
PAVAROTTI was in the Opera Suite, a Peugeot was parked in the lobby, there was a bottle of Moet behind every door, and if I didn’t know any better, I had stepped straight into a game of Cluedo. (Meet me on the Club Floor with the candelabra). If indeed this was Cluedo, it wasn’t a bad way to start, as normally, when it comes to the end of the working week, I’m pretty clueless. Sure, there’s always a cask of Chateau Cardboard (I’ll have a flagon of your finest red under $10, thanks) but no Italian operatic tenors hiding behind my bedroom door.
It’s a French Friday, but Paris this is not. Rather Brisbane, or the Sofitel Brisbane, to be exact. And thus begins my sultry Staycation, where I have precisely 17 hours to indulge in an affair to remember with my own city. And where better to begin than smack bang in the heart, above Central Station?
Don’t get me wrong. Normally I kick off a Friday night full of optimism. What’s not to love about the thought of no work for two whole days and the possibility of meeting a passionate paramour? I’m reminded of this by a piece of art in the Sofitel lobby art gallery. Yes, I too, start every Friday night feeling like a Foo Fighter.
I begin my journey with a short tour of the hotel which has undertaken a major refurbishment since last July. There are now six different room types, aimed at “infusing French elegance with local Brisbane culture”. The décor is fresh and sophisticated and is designed to provide a sense of coming home to your Parisian apartment. Even the colour of the carpet is a little ooh, la, la – it’s not just blue, it’s peacock blue, or was that green? I can’t really remember, as I said earlier, there was someone behind every door, with a bottle of something French and fizzy.
Up on the Club Floor (with the candelabra, remember?), the art-décor elegance continues, as do the unforgettable views of the city. If you want to feel a little French and smug, this is the place to sit and watch all the harangued office workers – of which you are normally one – rush to catch their trains home at the end of the working day.
Back on the ground floor, at the gracious Prive249 restaurant, the French flair continues with an Amuse Bouche of Poached Prawn with Herbed Aioli and Apple; Spanner Crab with Celeriac and Rhubarb Textures Entrée; Vanilla Confit Duck with Petit Pois a la Francasie Main; and Chocolate, Mint and Tonka Bean Cream Dessert.
After dinner my thoughts turn back to the Opera Suite, but not of the terrific tenor (I’m not sure about a man who returns from the dead), but of a photograph I took while I was there. Blame the bubbly if you must, but it looks like a couple enjoying the nocturnal activity for which the French are most famous.
I retreat to my room where I’d love to report that my affair to remember ended with a naughty nightcap, but the thought of curling up on my own in the Sofitel’s famed MyBed’s – all soft and squishy like you’ve been swallowed by a giant marshmallow – was enough for me. Frankly, that bed could have been packed with the North Queensland Cowboys, who I was reliably informed were staying on Floors 17, 25 and 26, and I wouldn’t have noticed.
And so, my sultry Staycation came to an end. This morning, predictably after so much Moet, I looked more like this creature I also found on the walls of the Sofitel’s lobby art gallery. Never let it be said that I don’t suffer for my art.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the Sofitel Brisbane. To create your own affair to remember go to http://www.sofitel.com/Brisbane
My Samoa glow-a has all but faded, but my happy memories of my recent trip, and the amazing people I met, remain. Some places leave an indelible inprint on you. This South Pacific paradise was one of them. Please enjoy my Snapshots of Samoa. Talofa!
Apia, the Samoan capital, is a city with a sense of humour as these colourful buses, demonstrate. Yep, the big, burly locals ride these, all around the island.
The fish is so fresh here, it jumps straight out of the ocean, and on to your dinner plate.
Next time I return to Coconuts Resort, I want to spend a night in one of these overwater bungalows.
And several nights in one of those Fales at Lalomanu Beach.
And meet more of the country’s beautiful children.
The Global Goddess travelled to Samoa as a guest of the Samoan Tourism Authority. For more information on a Samoan holiday go to http://www.samoa.travel. Virgin Australia flys direct to Samoa from Brisbane once a week and several times from Sydney.