BECAUSE there is nothing more on this planet that a lonely, single, travel writer with a rotten head cold loves more than listening to the couple in the room next door having crazy, monkey sex, I spend my first night in Noosa rummaging through my luggage for ear plugs and with the pillow over my head. The thing we love second best is not being able to locate the off switch for the room light (in this case, it’s in the kitchen which glows like a full moon), so I also grasp for my eye mask. Looking and feeling like Uncle Fester, I head to bed, strangely aroused and annoyed in equal measure, but resolve that tomorrow will be a better day.
And it is. It’s mid winter in Noosa and I’m on a story researching her hidden secrets, or Naked Noosa if you will. It’s also 27 degrees and while the cold and flu tablets I have taken initially prevent my foggy head from finding the Noosa River along which I have happily driven for the past 20 years, I eventually locate this major waterway and my first appointment of the day. I’m on a stand-up paddle board/yoga lesson with Kelly Carthy from Luxe Fitness Escapes who leads me into the mangroves where I lay on the board, sun on my face, birds in my ear, and perform some basic yoga moves, mindful not to roll over and into the river, which is exactly the kind of thing I’d do. Kelly has just launched the business aimed at making fitness fun in some of Noosa’s secret spots.
“As a trainer I’ve always used the outdoors to my advantage. I only train clients near water and places with a great view and it’s about how can I take their mind of it,” Kelly says.
“On the board or on the sand you are having to stabilise and are using all of your muscles and are more aware of what you are doing. I’m huge about empowering women to be in their own body and not be looking at someone else and to be more mindful about what they can do.
“I want them to feel strong and confident and I think there is lots of space to really empower women to feel strong in their bodies and focus on what they can do rather than how they look.”
Kelly tells me I have great core strength which I attribute to the fact I do yoga, and not all the crazy, monkey sex I’m not having, and I spend the rest of the day strutting around like I’m a super model.
I spend the afternoon with award-winning barista Al Claridge from Clandestino Roasters along Hastings Street, learning how to make the perfect drop. Well, I think I’m here to make coffee, but as is so often the case in my job, it’s the person with whom I’m speaking that turns out to be the story. “Kiwi Al” was one of New Zealand’s top 10 surfers but, more interestingly, was involved in a car accident which left him a tetraplegic – unable to use his limbs or torso. Against all odds it took him more than two years to learn to walk again and these days he lives on the Sunshine Coast, happily surfing and making “ethical, sustainable and environmental” coffee.
“I don’t chase the big money, I chase the waves and lifestyle,” Al says.
“If we’ve got a skill we’re not sharing in life, well then that’s selfish. It’s about raising people’s awareness of being.
“A good barista is like a counselor. Life is 100 percent about choice. Now everything I do is done with the fullest and life is a beautiful thing.”
The next day, I go in search of a bloke called Bear. I heard about Bear a few months back and was utterly fascinated by his name, picturing a large knife-wielding hippie who may or may not kill me. I’m totally unprepared for the 69-year-old who turns up in his 4WD and tells me to jump in his truck as we ride the Noosa Ferry to the Noosa North Shore. Bear, as it turns out, is a big teddy bear, who these days spends his time living with his wife Pam on their oceanfront land and searching for a good spot to fish. We explore this quiet side of Noosa and chat about life and love. I ask Bear the secret to his 48 year marriage.
“You need someone who likes the same things. She was a city girl and I brought her out of Brisbane and had to train her my way,” he says.
“You’ve got to deal with the problems as they come up and just be there for each other.
“I haven’t worked out women, I only had to train one. I don’t worry about the rest of them.”
I return to Hastings Street, convinced I am the only person who has ever gone to Noosa and not had a drink, but spent their entire time in the chemist begging for more cold and flu drugs. At one stage, I’m speeding so much on Sudafed that I actually park my car over an entire resort driveway, thus blocking the ability for anyone to enter or exit the resort. But the show must go on and I spend the next few days on a walking tour of the secret side of Noosa National park (where I may or may not have been looking for the nudist beach), learning to sail the Noosa River, watching a Queensland Ballet Performance, talking about Eumundi Body Art and soaking up the sun. Yes, if you’re going to feel rotten, Noosa is the best antidote to any head cold. I drive back to Brisbane on late Sunday, the stories and characters swirling around in my head like latte art, grappling with how to sum up this naked side of Noosa. And, just when I want to give up, worried I can’t find a way to deliver justice to this divine destination, the words of Bear pop into my head: “When all else fails, just keep fishing.”
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Tourism Noosa – http://www.visitnoosa.com.au
Head straight to Long Shan Temple in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. Here, you can gamble on God, dice with Dharma and bet on Buddha all at once. In what is essentially a game of Taiwanese two-up, you first take a stick with a number on it. Then, in your head, you tell Buddha your name, where you are from, and what you are asking for (eg: the love of your life). Then you take two blocks of wood and toss them. If they both land face up, Buddha is still thinking about your request. If they both land face down, your request will not happen. If one lands face down and one lands face up, your request will come true. The good news is that one of mine landed face up and the other face down. The bad news is that I am still waiting to meet my “man of honour” that the wood promised. But if I do, I am told I must return to the temple with him.
In Saigon I managed to attract lots of love interest. Just none of it from members of the opposite sex. Rather, it was older Vietnamese women who appeared enamoured by me here, something which became apparent from my first night. While enjoying a Vietnamese omelette stuffed full of prawns, pork and spices, an old lady, who was at least 100, walked into the restaurant carrying a pile of books as high as her head. She pointed to Fifty Shades of Grey, asked, “You want to read” and then punched her first into the air, laughed and said “Boom, Boom!” In the beach resort town of Nha Trang I had a Vietnamese massage where my masseuse slathered me in oil and then proceeded to slap me hard on the buttocks. At one point I thought I’d entered the Red Room of Pain in Fifty Shades. Back in Saigon, I was befriended by a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl who gave me a small doll as a gift, before telling me that her ageing aunt thought I was “beautiful”.
You can guarantee seduction in Samoa, at least by this Pacific island nation if nothing else. For this is a land of tsunamis, tragedy and triumph. Of man over Mother Nature. And it’s also about tribal tattoos, tradition and testosterone. Head to the Samoan Tourism Association Cultural Village in the capital of Apia and you can witness local men partaking in the manhood-testing tradition of a tribal tattoo. I was reliably informed that the only part of a man’s body from his middle back to his knees that is not tattooed is his penis. Curious types like me can go there hoping for a gentle breeze to lift a lava lava to prove this point. You’ll fall in love with this country, which has survived its share of cyclones and a devastating tsunami in 2009 which claimed 189 lives in the South Pacific, many of them children. This is a land of loss, lore and love. And the men are handsome too.
One of the greatest love stories of modern time, and which I’ve been furiously following, exists along the River Kwai, better known for its war history. Here, overlooking the emerald mountains of Kanchanburi exists a young man named Sam. Sam is a Mon man from the displaced Mon people, considered one of the earliest tribes to live in southeast Asia. Sam, 22, a tour guide at the River Kwai Jungle Rafts, is in love with a girl called Jaytarmon in a neighbouring village but he doesn’t own a boat, so access isn’t easy. And then there’s a girl from his own village who is also keen on Sam. Yes, even in the jungle, love is complicated. While you may not find your own love story along the River Kwai and her floating raft hotels, you’ll adore this bridge between the old and new worlds, and this enduring and evolving tale of the heart.
I’m reliably informed that Bali is a hunting ground for cougars but if you’re a reformed cougar, like me, then all hope is not lost. I was once accosted by a Balinese waiter who asked from where I hailed, to which he replied: “Oh, Australia, kangaroo, kangaroo very sexy.” When he saw my baffled expression at the thought of Skippy being a sex God, he proceeded to draw an invisible outline in the air of a curvy bottle of Coca Cola. He then pointed at me and said: “Coca Cola, very sexy.” While my outrageous laughing may have put paid to any love interest, for the rest of my stay, if my girlfriend was looking for me in a crowded pool, she only needed to visualise a kangaroo drinking Coca Cola and up I’d pop. Or should that be hop?
It took me all of five minutes upon arriving at Queen Alia Airport in Amman, Jordan, to realise that Arab men are as sexy as their reputation. I don’t believe I’ve floated through airport immigration anywhere in the world with such outrageous flirts. At my hotel every morning, three young waiters would actually argue over who got to bring me my morning coffee, and be rewarded with a smile. In the end, all three each brought me a cuppa, so it was more like a maniacal grin from me. Charm is everywhere here, with male shopkeepers saying things like “Your lips are like honey”, or “I can see Sydney in your eyes” despite the fact you live in Brisbane.
Back on home soil I’d love to say I’ve cracked the code to attracting an awesome Aussie male, but that would be a lie. However last year I did go to the Whitsundays for the annual Airlie Beach Race Week. Think: 74 islands and 800 horny sailors in town. Unfortunately I didn’t read the fine print, which states that old salts like their calamari young, so to speak, and I’m more of a barracuda. When not staring out at the horizon, I’m told sailors have quite the roving eye. Airlie Beach itself is a backpacker party town, so should you wish to meet a hot, young man you’ll never see again, and are prepared to spend the night in a bunk bed, this is the place for you.
Like her Samoan sister, Fiji is teeming with attractive people, including the women. Which is just as well, as a woman twice the size of both my mate and me dragged us both up onto the dance floor, and then watched our inherent lack of white girl rhythm as they played the funky music. A much better bet, and a lovely day trip, is out in the Sigatoka Valley and to Naihehe Cave. Here, you wade through cool water and pass through three chambers including a tight spot known as the pregnancy passage. If you get stuck, it means you are pregnant. Which makes for an interesting souvenir to take back home.
Every time I skip across the ditch to New Zealand something strange happens. Last year I went into a Wellington prison to interview six “lifers” who were involved in a Prison Gate to Plate cooking event. Yes, the only thing standing between me finding true love was the New Zealand parole office. The earth did move for me there, but that’s only because there was also an earthquake. A few years prior I was in Queenstown researching what non-adventurous souls such as myself could do in the world’s adventure capital. Adventure ended up finding me, and caught in a white out somewhere up on The Remarkables, I managed to enlist two kiwi men to actually carry me down the slippery mountain while I cried hysterically. Needless to say, there’s nothing attractive about a woman with frozen ice tears on her face.
Think like Australia’s own Princess Mary and snaffle yourself a Prince. Hey, if it’s good enough for a real estate agent from Hobart…And there’s a few single blokes on the market including Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark, who is actually based in New York and does look after Greece, whose economy isn’t so hot right now. You could try Prince Sebastien Henri Marie Guillaume of Luxembour who, at 23, loves to travel and is a keen sportsman and apparently adept at climbing, skiing, swimming and rugby union. For my money, I recommend Prince Wenzeslaus of Liechtenstein. His family is considered the richest monarchy in Europe. Vince the Prince, or Vincent, as he prefers to be called, has never married, but has been known to date the odd Victoria Secret supermodel which makes him simply perfect for the average Aussie sheila.
This blog post is part of The Global Goddess’ entry into the Virgin Australia Top Travel Tips ProBlogger competition. #pbevent @virginaustralia
THE last time I found myself on the back of a motorbike was about a decade ago, my arms wrapped clumsily around a very pleasant, overweight biker as we whizzed through the ranges surrounding Alice Springs. No, I was not on a date, but pushing my comfort zone for a story. I’m pretty sure I scarred the biker for life as I screamed in his ear while clawing at his nipples, possibly providing inspiration for the movie Wolf Creek. Fast forward to last Monday and I’m again on the back of a bike, but this is not just any bike. I’m on a Brisbane Trike Tour with owner Chrissy McDonnell who has banned me from both clawing her nipples and screaming any profanities. After all, we’re all ladies here, including this shiny, black three-wheeler she’s christened The Bling Queen, worth some $65,000.
I’m also with my good mate Shaun who has witnessed me at my worst, so the two of us clutch onto the metal pole at the back and prepare for the ride of our lives, me taking deep yoga breaths and hoping no one can hear me through the intercom in our helmets. We cruise through my suburb on to Coronation Drive and past the Brisbane River, which sparkles like a diamond on this glorious winter day. Through the city we buzz, turning heads at every corner. We pause at one set of traffic lights and look up at the towering Suncorp Building, in the city centre.
“See that, that used to be my office,” says Chrissy, who used to write product disclosure statements for the insurance giant.
“I reached a stage last December where I realised life was short and I wanted to do things I enjoyed while I still had enough health and youth to do it.
“There was a motor bike tour franchise for sale on the internet and it just got me thinking ‘why don’t I buy my own trike?’ I didn’t see anyone else doing that in Brisbane.
“I thought ‘I’m not the girl I think I am if I can’t do it’.”
At 59, with a 41-year-old partner and four grandchildren who call her “Biker Nana”, Chrissy is quite the girl.
“Part of it is inherent. I come from a long line of women that always were a tiny bit different. I was born in 1956 during the Hungarian Uprising. My parents had to escape and went across the border into Austria and were repatriated into the UK. I was three months old and they lost everything. We eventually came to Australia as 10 Pound Poms.
“In my life I’ve seen my parents reinvent their lives. Anyone can do this, you just don’t give yourself permission to do it. I saw from my parents that it’s not a bad thing to re-start your life.”
We whizz over the Story Bridge and onto the M1 southbound towards the Gold Coast. Our ride is fast and furious and around Beenleigh we take an exit and onto more quiet country roads, which leave little doubt you’re in Australia. There’s Swamp Valley and Boomerang Roads before we hit the tiny town of Wonglepong and finally Canungra where we stop at a regular biker haunt: The Outpost Café. I practically swagger into the coffee shop like a true-blue bikie and total wanker that I can be when someone dresses me up in costume. Chrissy politely interrupts my fantasies about joining a bikie gang, by continuing her story.
“I was 31 and I had four kids when I got my motorbike licence. Sometimes you’ve got to get something out of your system. I scandalised my first husband but I just loved it. I used to get up at four in the morning and watch the sun come up over the creek and the dolphins come in. It really set me up for the day,” she says.
“People didn’t recognise me in the Tarago with four kids as the woman on the motor bike. I had this whole other identity.
“That was another incarnation of many. We’ve all got them.”
Chrissy can see that I’m a bit apprehensive on the back of her trike, particularly when I ask where the seat belts are: “There aren’t any. You don’t need them on a motorbike. Sometimes you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone and be a little bit frightened.”
And she’s right. Frankly, I’ve been on scarier dates. Chrissy is the ultimate safe driver and says there’s lots of misconceptions about motor bike riders.
“I’m not a biker chick. There are a lot of women out there that ride. We are bikers in our own rights. People have this tendency to put women in a filing cabinet and attach a label to them,” she says.
“There is not particular reason I do it, I just enjoy it. I’ve had people get very angry and aggressive and ask ‘what do you think you are doing?’
“For me, life is excellent. I haven’t been able to wipe the smile since I left the office.”
We ride on towards O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards for lunch, where we perch by the creek with a picnic lunch. So fresh is this creek which runs through this picturesque property, you could drink the water, which runs down from the rainforest. And on a good day, you can even spot platypus here. Before we depart, I ask Chrissy what her life mantra is: “Remember to buy hyacinth. There is that old saying that if a man is hungry and has two coins, he should buy bread with one coin and hyacinth with another simply to enjoy it. We need to remember to buy hyacinth.”
The Global Goddess was a guest of Brisbane Trike Tours – http://www.brisbanetriketours.com.au; and O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards – http://www.canungravineyards.com.au
I AM dining in the Brisbane restaurant which has just been named Best for Romance/First Date 2015 by the Dimmi Awards. The irony of the fact that I am dining with five other women, two of whom are complete strangers, is not lost on me. Story of my life that this is, I am at Auchenflower’s Deer Duck Bistro to see what the duck the fuss is all about. How can a restaurant be romantic? Isn’t it up to the diners? We are here to try the 7-course Chef’s Menu with matching wines and even better, it appears romance is right around the corner from me, with this restaurant in the next inner west suburb to that in which I live.
Owned by Chef Nicholas Cooper, if you love the planet, Deer Duck Bistro sprouts a very romantic ethos: to promote ethical eating by using the freshest, local, sustainable, organic and macrobiotic produce possible. A boxed garden onsite grows heirloom plants and micro herbs harvested just before they hit your plate, and the restaurant supports small, independent growers. Where possible fruit and vegetables are sourced locally from Mount Tamborine, The Darling Downs and South Burnett regions and bread is baked on premise using organic ingredients.
While there’s not too many deer or ducks roaming the streets of Brisbane, you’ll see plenty on the walls of this restaurant which is themed with unusual antiques and is a pleasant departure from the usual bold Queensland colours you see elsewhere around town, particularly on this crisp winter night. In fact, so eclectic are things in this establishment, that even each table setting consists of mismatched cutlery, which evokes that comfortable, familiar feeling of dining at your grandmas. The aim: to deliver modern Australian, European cuisine.
The restaurant also serves a-la-carte dishes and, despite its carnivorous name, is incredibly popular with vegetarians and vegans for whom it caters beautifully, including an individual 7-course degustation for those who don’t eat meat. For consummate carnivores like myself, the menu is a delicious dream. Our 7 courses started with mussels, carrot and dill, which was an unexpectedly tasty combination. Onion, thyme and veal sweetbreads followed before barramundi, shitake and black rice.
Chicken, corn and tarragon formed the basis of the fourth course, followed by beef, pumpkin and onion. While not part of this particular 7-course menu, we had the opportunity to try the duck after which the restaurant takes its name, and I’m delighted to report it, too, was delicious. We finished the savory courses with beef, pumpkin and onion. While my forte as a travel and dating blogger lays more in describing destinations and men, rather than food, I can report that each dish possessed a crunchy texture and a surprise I’d never even imagined…just like most of my dates, although in this case, it’s a most pleasant surprise. I only wish, like the deer heads in this restaurant, I could hang some of the men I’ve met on the wall.
While a refreshing zing, the rockmelon, honey and pistachio would have made a far greater impact served somewhere between the meat dishes as a palate cleanser and seemed slightly strange to serve just before another dessert – the chocolate, pear and hazelnut, which would have worked well straight after the rich, slow-cooked beef dish.
But it’s difficult to fault this restaurant which pairs each course with a diverse and innovative wine list, serving everything from French champagne to start, to high-quality international and Australian drops in between. However the sparkling merlot at the end was an unusual finish and again, I would have ended with something sweeter like a sticky. Apart from the gorgeous main dining room, there’s a private dining room and my favourite of all, a cosy cocktail lounge in which you can partake in pre or post dinner drinks, and even order from a bar menu if the desire to slink into those comfy couches overtakes your need to sit at a table.
Deer Duck Bistro last week won its first coveted Chefs Hat at the Good Food Guide Awards and it’s easy to see why. My advice: make a booking there sooner rather than later, as this is one of the hottest restaurants in Brisbane right now which is courageous enough to not follow the pack with its menu, flavours or décor. As for the romance, partaking in a fabulous feast with three old friends and two new ones may not be conventionally romantic, but you could do a whole lot worse. Bloke or no bloke, what the duck, I’ll be back.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Deer Duck Bistro – http://www.deerduckbistro.com.au