LAST week we had the exciting news that Australia has been awarded entry into the prestigious Eurovision competition, being held in Vienna in May. And I have been invited by Austria Tourism to cover this event. Equally as exciting, this year marks 50 years since The Sound of Music was filmed. I’ll also be heading down to Salzburg to ask the big questions such as, how do you know if you’ve fallen into the Von Trapp family trap?
1. Climb Every Mountain
Faced with the fresh alpine air, lush, green grass and the distant tinkle of cow bells, there wouldn’t be a traveller alive who hasn’t been atop a mountain, somewhere on the planet, who hasn’t felt a sudden rush to frolic on the mountain top while singing The Hills Are Alive. It’s annoying, it’s unnecessary and like the Nazi occupation in the movie, it is also unstoppable.
2. Seeking Refuge In Sacred Sites
OK, so a bunch of nasty Nazis are unlikely to be following you anytime soon, so hiding behind gravestones is probably not on the cards, but what traveller hasn’t sought solace in a sacred site, such as a church? Cathedrals are remarkably good places to rest your weary travelling bones, particularly if it’s a hot day. And if you’re lucky, there might be a service on at the same time, which means you could partake in Holy Communion and get a free wafer and a sip of red wine. Dinner and a show, what’s not to love?
3. How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?
If you think life on the road is all beer and schnitzels, think again. Travelling is hard work. And from time-to-time, you will be confronted with all sorts of problems, from lost luggage to delayed transport and overbooked hotels. So, your problems may not be as critical as those faced by Mother Superior, who just wasn’t sure what to do with that wayward Maria, but they feel pretty big at the time. Sit down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, what would Mother Superior do?
4. You’re Wearing Your Traveller’s Clothes
Remember the scene towards the end of the film where the Von Trapps have turned off the car engine and are trying to sneak away without performing in the big concert but they get caught in the spotlights of the Nazi party sympathisers? At this point, Captain Von Trapp points out that the entire family is not dressed in “travelling clothes” but they are in fact costumes for the performance. Yeah, right, we’re all tried to tart up that old t.shirt on a fancy night out overseas. Doesn’t work.
5. You Sneak Out Half Way Through A Concert Performance
Who hasn’t been on an overseas trip and someone, usually your host, suggests you join them for a bit of Strauss at some symphony orchestra? And we all know how fun that is, particularly when all you really want to do is be at the buzzing pub you passed on your way to the national theatre hall. Just pull a Von Trapp and half way through, disappear. That’s right. No need for lengthy goodbyes. By the time they realise you’re missing, you’ll be halfway to another country.
6. You’re So Desperate For Clean Clothes, You’ll Wear Anything
Yes, even a curtain. Turns out Sister Maria was quite the seamstress. We’ve all been there. You’ve been on the road for weeks, your travelling clothes are tatty and tired. You lay awake at night daydreaming of the day you can burn those khaki shorts, never to be worn again. You hate that t.shirt you wear every day with a passion. And then you look around the room in which you are staying and are overcome with the urge to whip up some lederhosen from the curtains. If only you’d packed your Singer sewing machine.
7. The Sound Of Shrill Whistles Make You Run
Captain Von Trapp was really onto something with that whistle-blowing caper. I mean, who speaks to their kids anyway? And when you’ve got so many in your massive mansion, how the heck are you meant to locate them all? Whether it’s some amorous men in Italy, or your inter-country train departing the station, you hear the sound of a whistle anywhere in Europe, and you are bound to sprint.
8. You Are 16, Going On 17
Like the actress who played the lovely Liesl, you are actually 21, possibly even 41, pretending you are 16 going on 17. There’ s something about travelling overseas which allows you to reinvent yourself, after all, you are never going to see half the people you meet again (regardless of the empty promises you make to stay in touch). Whether you lie about your age, your job, or your nationality, we’ve all lied to impress the listener. Even the lovely Liesl.
9. You Take A Vow Of Celibacy
Well, we all know how well that worked out for Maria. About as well as it will work out for you. Yes, yes, we all vow we are going travelling to “find out more about ourselves” and to “learn and grow as a person”. And that might be true. But I challenge anyone who has spent any time at the Munich Oktoberfest to come back and tell me how that vow of celibacy worked out for them. Yes, didn’t think so.
10. You Act All Cute To Get What You Want
You might have thought you got away with it, Greta, all chubby cheeks, blonde hair and lispy tugging at the apron strings: “please don’t go, Sister Maria”, but I was on to your little caper. Having said that, the youngest Von Trapp had a travelling lesson for us all. Whether you are begging for an upgrade, or just the last bed in the youth hostel late at night, it doesn’t hurt to turn on a bit of the Greta to get what you want. You might want to lose the lisp.
To book your own Sound of Music escape to Austria, go to http://www.austria.info/au
I’VE never been accused of being a “shrinking violet”, but the term “socialite” has been levelled at me many times. So it’s fitting that I am sipping a buzzing cocktail of that very name this fine Friday evening, having shunned the far more retiring purple concoction on the drinks menu. I am at Brisbane’s New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites dating back to the 1920s, which is also quite perfect, as I’ve always fancied myself of that elegant era, squeezed between two World Wars, wearing a flapper dress and smoking long, slim cigarettes while surrounded by a bevy of male admirers. Yes, a girl’s got to dream and this is the perfect establishment in which to do so. In fact, had I been really clever, I would have ordered the good Doctor Thompson off the cocktail list instead, as this is what I feel is in order the next morning after a night of pure decadence.
Built during the 1920s, if the walls of The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites could talk, they would whisper some very salacious details indeed. For this heritage-listed hotel, up on Wickham Terrace, was once a medical centre. This tale actually dates back to the 1880s when immigrant Dr John Thomson chose the site to build his personal residence and named his home Inchcolm after Scotland’s Inchcolm Island, which was later replaced by the current building.
And the story becomes even more interesting, as the current owner and iconic Brisbane developer Peter Flynn was actually born in the building during its days as a medical practice. Flynn first had a vision to create a New York style boutique style hotel and in 1998 opened The Inchcolm Hotel. Now, following an $8 million refurbishment and restoration, The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites is the latest art deco darling on Brisbane’s social scene. And what a darling she is.
Guests who stay in the original building can expect their room to be unique, as few rooms are the same configuration due to its previous incarnation as a medical centre. There’s even the MacArthur Suite from where American General Douglas MacArthur’s personal physician worked while MacArthur was stationed in Brisbane during World War Two. Meanwhile, the new loft-style hotel suites capture all the charm of the era with art deco furnishings and fittings. About the only thing missing on this particular evening is a group of merry maids to assist me in dressing for my evening of indulgence.
I swan down to the sophisticated Socialites Bar and order a beer first up. In my defence, it had been a hot day and I really wanted to try the local Newstead Beer on tap and also in my room’s “maxi bar” which I am happy to report also stocks New Farm confectionary items. Modern day darlings of Brisbane’s social scene K1 and K2 arrive soon after, and order The Socialite – spiced rum, pear liqueur and ginger liqueur with fresh pear and crystalized ginger. This promptly sends this beer-drinking flapper well, into a bit of a flap (what the hell was I thinking drinking beer for God’s sake?), and I, too, order the same cocktail before our party of eight retires to the Foxtrot Room (next to the Charleston Room) for a private dinner. By this stage, I’m beginning to feel like I’m in a real life game of Cluedo….the travel writer, in the Foxtrot Room, with the butter knife.
Drawing on inspiration from the menu in the hotel’s Thomson’s Reserve Restaurant, our five-course degustation is a juicy journey in itself, which starts with an amusing Amuse Bouche and ends with white chocolate, fizzy honeycomb, orange curd, citrus & golden cherry meringue for dessert. In between there’s a host of delicate dishes including the Sous vide rolled Wagyu petite tenderloin with smoked gnocchi, carrot variations and nut butter. As fate would have it, the handsome waiter serving us looks incredibly familiar and I spend considerable time pondering this fact. Finally he reveals he once worked at Brisbane’s fine-dining steak restaurant Cha Cha Char where it turns out he was my waiter when I was once trapped on yet another disastrous internet date with a bloke who ordered a $100 steak in order to impress me with the size of his wallet. Yes, Brisbane is indeed small and salacious, just like this establishment.
Our meal comes to an end and I float back upstairs to my loft bedroom, memories of beef and blokes swimming around my mind. I fall into the kind of deep sleep I imagine a socialite of the 1920s era would and, while somewhat disappointed it’s actually 2015, I awake refreshed and ready to take on my contemporary city again. If art deco decadence is your kind of thing, escape to The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites, it could be just the medicine you need.
The Global Goddess was a guest of The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites – http://www.mgallery.com/TheNewInchcolmHotel
THE River Kwai is a jade jewel as late afternoon concedes languidly to dusk. The longtail boat in which I am travelling roars and sputters like an indigent politician up the infamous waterway towards the floating jungle rafts I have come to know and love so much. Travel writers don’t particularly like returning to the same place – there’s too much world to explore – but there are some destinations which become firmly etched into your psyche. And so entrenched in your soul you are unwittingly lured back. And for me, this is one of them, in part for its brutal war history involving the bravado of Australian soldiers and in part for its sheer natural beauty.
I penned these words a year ago on my fourth trip to the rustic and incredibly beautiful River Kwai region, pondering what it was that kept drawing me back to this part of the world. I still have no answers, but the pull to return there has emerged again, and this year, I’d love to take some of you with me. And so, I am delighted to announce I have launched a new tour River Kwai Travel Writing Delights with The Global Goddess. In early August, we will be meeting in Bangkok where we will spend two nights in a luxury five-star hotel, before we embark on our journey to the River Kwai. And along the way, we’ll be observing, day dreaming and writing about our travels.
If we’re lucky, we’ll bump into my good friend Sam Season, about whom I have written before. I first met Sam Season several years ago, and over the years I have been speaking with him about the most salacious of all subjects: love. Regular readers of The Global Goddess will remember this 22-year-old tour guide, a Mon man from one of the earliest tribes to live in South East Asia. Considered neither Burmese, nor Thai, the Mon exist in a small slither of land along the River Kwai, not far from the Burmese border. The Mon number some 8.14 million people but I remain captivated by this one man. This man called Sam.
At night, he paints his face in traditional Mon markings but speaks with an English accent plucked out of a south London pub, with a smattering of Aussie twang – picked up solely from the tourists with which he works every day. He moved to this particular village when he was 9, and has been studying to finish High School since, in between working 6 days a week at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts. And Sam is in love with a girl called Jaytarmon with beautiful long black hair who lives in a neighbouring village down the river. But access to this girl, like internet, electricity and hot water, are elusive in these parts. And to complicate things more, Sam is being pursued by a girl in his own village, who cooks for him and washes his clothes.
Last time we parted ways, on the banks of that beautiful river, Sam had plans to spend the year perfecting his English, so he can gain a mechanics scholarship in Australia and work towards his dream of becoming a car mechanic along the Thai/Burmese border. His plans included professing his love for Jaytarmon and asking her to wait for him and his love. Those of you who know me personally, or have met me through my words alone, know that this will be a journey of humility, heart and humour – the three cornerstones I believe make a great writer, and good human being. Please come and join me in one of the most beautiful trips I have ever done. It will change your life.
For more details on my tour River Kwai Travel Writing Delights with The Global Goddess, please click on this link: https://theglobalgoddess.com/joinmythailandtour/