There’s a coffee table book in the foyer of Brisbane’s new Art Series Hotel, The Fantauzzo, called Parallel Realities and the irony of this teasing tome is not lost on me. I am a travel writer currently experiencing a parallel life. A traveller whose wings have been savagely clipped by the coronavirus pandemic, but a writer still scrambling for a story. I perch on a bench and sip a cold beer overlooking the Brisbane River and contemplate these words I’ve just scribbled in my notebook. Yes, there are worse places in the world in which to find yourself grounded than the Queensland capital.
I have spent many years galloping around the globe, telling the tales of this wild world, dancing with destinations, daring them to reveal themselves and their quirky characters. And in many ways it’s nice to plant my shoes and soul on Australian soil for a while. Sure, my spirit is still restless. Itchy. A dull gnawing in the background. But for now, I’m trying to embrace this new paradigm in which I find myself. So on this frazzled Friday, when the humidity tugs at my skin like an impatient child, I check into The Fantauzzo at the Howard Smith Wharves precinct.
There’s salacious stories to be had everywhere, if you know where to look, and this hotel is no different. Artist Vincent Fantauzzo has lent his name and creativity to this new hotel but despite his beautiful work, it wasn’t an easy ride to recognition. Undiagnosed with dyslexia during his school years, Fantauzzo was dismissed as stupid, leading him to become the “tough kid” at school often embroiled in fights. Caught for plagiarism at university, his dyslexia was finally diagnosed and he was supported to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, before completing a Master of Fine Arts. Visitors to The Fantauzzo are treated to galleries of his work, including in the foyer, where a gargantuan portrait of his Australian actress wife, Asher Keddie, hangs.
I check into my riverfront suite, gushing with glee that it’s taken me all of 15 minutes from home to hotel, rather than the usual 30 hours on my overseas travel writing assignments. I hardly know what to do with myself. Lounge in a plush bathrobe on the emerald chaise in the corner? Soak in the freestanding white tub and admire the charcoal walls and chocolate Brisbane River beyond? Sashay through the hotel hallways surveying the artwork? If it wasn’t so hot I could borrow one of the hotel’s retro bikes, or hire their cute car for a brief whisk around the city. I could also steal a splash in the infinity pool but for now, I opt to stroll the Howard Smith Wharves precinct and snatch a cold brew at Felons Brewery. For once, I’m keeping it simple.
It’s a foreign feeling to live in a city and feel like you know it, but realise you don’t really know it at all. A little like a long-term relationship. You understand the basic architecture, but the style and substance has changed. The things which draw you to a destination, and a person, they change over time. And Brissie has been growing up rapidly while I was busy looking elsewhere. I’ve been a neglectful lover. Later, I’ll attempt to meet a mate for cocktails in The Fantauzzo’s rooftop bar, Fiume, but Brisbane has other plans, ordering a delicious drenching which forces us downstairs to sip on a Native Martini with eucalyptus vodka and limoncello for me, and a Mount Tamborine Sour Range with Mount Tamborine Liqueur, egg white and lemon, for my companion. It’s all so local and lovely. Familiar.
We repair inside to the cool to feast at Polpetto, the hotel’s Italian-inspired restaurant, on Rigatoni with braised beef ragu, thyme, red wine and pecorino; and Orecchiette, market fish, saffron, mussels, cherry tomato, and white wine butter sauce. There’s time to clutch a glass of full bodied red wine by the river before I return to my suite, crawling into my Art Series Signature Bed which is reputed to be so divine, I can order one to take home. They aren’t wrong. It’s an occupational hazard of mine never to sleep well the first night in a new bed, but on this occasion, I slumber deeply in my room cradled by the Story Bridge and the safe city I call home.
It’s a brazen Brisbane thing to dine outside as much as possible, almost as if someone one day may steal our sunshine, and I take advantage of my alfresco breakfast, watching the cyclists roll along the river. Sated, I check out of my suite and I sneak back out into the city with which I’m becoming rapidly reacquainted. Yes, we live in interesting times. Flashes of fear, uncertainty, confusion and panic. The Spanish say that when you walk the spiritual Camino Trail, that is where you meet yourself. Yoga teachers around the world are always reminding me to “meet yourself where you’re at”. And for now, that’s Brisbane.
The Global Goddess stayed as a guest of The Fantauzzo Art Series Hotel https://www.artserieshotels.com.au/fantauzzo/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb