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
THE very first thing I learned when I moved to Brisbane almost 20 years ago is that the city is divided into two tribes. Those who live north of the Brisbane River, and those who live to the south. So distinct is this demarcation you could be talking about the Scottish and the English. Turns out I’m a true northerner through and through and, with some shame, admit that in two decades I’ve never ever stopped to explore the south, rather giving it a cursory glance on my way to the Gold Coast. But this all changed on the weekend when I was given the opportunity to “cross the river”, pause, and reflect on what the south has to offer. And what I discovered was that the south has soul in spades. Just as the human body has 7 chakras, here’s 7 ways you can discover the spirit of the south side.
1. Back to the bush
Redlands IndiScapes Centre is Australia’s first environmental centre for indigenous plants, and I’m stunned to learn it’s been here for 15 years and I’ve never visited. Which is my great loss, as this 14.5ha site is home to 14 demonstration gardens, more than a kilometre of walking tracks, an environmental information centre and a 600-year-old Tallowwood tree. The good news is that 55,000 visitors a year have discovered this bush beauty which hosts a range of events all designed to acquaint Brisbane residents with native plants. Bush Care Extension Officer Travis Green is passionate about this patch and works with 300 volunteers who plant 20,000 trees in the Redlands region each year. Make sure you stop for a bite in the breezy tea garden café where you can sip on lemon myrtle ice tea while eating native bush tucker.
2. Red, red wine
Regular readers will know that The Global Goddess is rather partial to a drop of wine, or three, and I am more than happy to support local wine makers, all in the name of story research and robust good health, of course. Sirromet Wines at Mount Cotton is one of Queensland’s stunning success stories, clocking up more than 780 national and international awards. Opened by businessman Terry Morris in 2000, this gorgeous property overlooks southern Moreton Bay and produced 640 tonnes, or 500,000 bottles, of wine last year. A highlight of a visit here is the timber antique wine press which dates back to 1793 and hails from the Austrian Hungarian Empire. Around 3500 people a week flock here to sample the 10 varieties of wine on offer, look longingly at the 3000 wines from around the globe in the Morris family cellar (or that could just be me), and dine in the winery’s signature restaurant Lurleen’s, lovingly named after Terry’s wife.
3. Body and Soul
A relatively new entrant to the south side, Body and Soul Spa Retreat at Mount Cotton uses products derived from Australian wild flowers in its spa treatments among this Aussie bush setting. Visitors are first asked to choose an essential oil based on which smell most resonates with them and which corresponds to either fire, water, earth or air. Retreat owner Gail Keith says the process is about balancing the “whole person” so that “you function in your whole life a lot better”. On this particular day I discover I have a strong water element, described as sensitive, intuitive and creative. And my two-hour treatment ironically includes a Goddess Youth Infusion Facial with collagen and hibiscus flower. A cup of tea brewed from native Australian flowers is offered at the end of the treatment, and my water element and me practically float on to my next appointment, looking 10 years younger, of course.
4. Into the woods
Water dragons skip over the lily ponds playing a salacious game of catch and kiss as I sit (rather enviously I might add) on the deck of my charming cabin among the scribbly gums and iron bark trees at Mt Cotton Retreat and Nature Reserve. While the seclusion is seductive, what I really adore is the fact this property has embraced the environment with both hands. Not only is this retreat certified under the internationally recognised Ecotourism Australia, they have established a 20ha private nature refuge which includes three relatively untouched eco systems and more than 75 bird species. Birds on this property have actually been formally identified and registered in the Australian Bird Atlas and in 2011, this retreat created Boom-Ber-Pee (which means koala in the language of the local Minjerribah people) a private nature reserve which protects endangered regional ecosystems and koala habitat.
5. Sit with yourself
I’d heard that the south side had a Buddhist temple but I was unprepared for just how big and beautiful the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale actually is. The hum of Buddhist chants blends with the intoxicating sounds of silence on this 90ha bushland property which opened in 1992. The City of Logan is home to 215 nationalities and this is one heartening example of the multiculturalism this part of Brisbane embraces. A Bodhi tree, grown from a cutting of the original plant under which Buddha is said to have found enlightenment, is on this site which hosts a number of buildings and temples. Guests who give advance notice can participate in an ancient tea ceremony by donation and in which you’ll learn about the 5 different types of tea – green, red, oolong, yellow and white. In this intricate ceremony Tea Maker William Zhao will explain that tea must be drunk slowly. Even better, William believes red wine is a good for you as tea. I knew it.
6. There’s a bear in there
Another startling fact about the City of Logan that I learned on the weekend is it is home to more than 900 parks and more than 80 per cent of this city is considered “green”. Which makes it the ideal corridor for wildlife to inhabit. Turns out koalas are also huge supporters of the southside, and a really restful place in which to experience these Aussie icons is at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. Set within the 435ha Daisy Hill Conservation Park, which, by the way, makes an ideal spot for a picnic, a handful of koalas are housed in this environmental and education centre. Now, call me un-Australian, but I’m one of those people who think koalas are a little dull. They sleep for an inordinate number of hours each day, smell a little, are pretty hairy and when they do wake, are pretty scratchy. A little like my ex-husband. But that all changed when I met Harry, the 8kg male, who sprung to life during my visit and struck this sensational pose.
7. Food, glorious food
Until now, when I thought of dining on Brisbane’s south side, I thought of the huge proliferation of excellent Chinese restaurants which pay homage to some of the first migrants to the area. But this is a region which is thriving in a number of foodie fields. From The Berry Patch at Chambers Flat to the Global Food Village at Woodridge, the NT Fresh Cucumber Farm and Riverview Herbs, there’s a range of dynamic producers doing some great stuff here. Let’s not forget the Beenleigh Rum Distillery for a bit of liquid gold, Carcamos Gourmet Caramel Apples, Poppy’s Chocolate, and last, but not least, the unusually exotic Greenbank Mushrooms – where oysters and shiitake mushrooms are grown from a log, like potted flowers. I was gifted one of these beauties and can’t wait to see what springs from its soil. Day of the Triffods or dinner on Tuesday, who can tell?
The Global Goddess explored the south side and Brisbane’s back yard as a guest of Brisbane Marketing. To discover the south side’s soul and awaken your seven chakras, go to http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au
“Are you going down to the bar? Make sure you try out all the boys.” I’m in the lift of Brisbane’s newest hotel NEXT when, quite by random, I bump into the bar manager. My first reaction is one of surprise, followed frantically by the thought that my reputation as a man’s lady has preceded me. My brain takes a few moments to register what he’s just said. Cocktail. He said cockTAIL. He wants me to test his bar tenders’ cocktail-making skills. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this futuristic hotel could read my mind, as it’s the first in Australia to offer a range of hi-tech options that would make even George and Jane Jetson blush.
From check-in to check-out you’re in for a technological treat here. For starters there’s a free App, where guests can use their smart phones as mobile keys to check in and out of the hotel, unlock the room door, control the room temperature, lights and entertainment channel, even if you’re not in the room. Even better, you can order your poolside cocktails and room service before you even arrive, if that sort of thing takes your fancy. Another check-in/check-out alternative in the lobby are computers similar to those at the airport where you simply enter your details and, instead of a boarding pass, your room key is dispatched.
And don’t worry if you don’t possess a smart phone, as every room comes complete with a Samsung Galaxy S4 for free use throughout your stay, offering everything from free Wi-Fi, free local calls and, one of the most fabulous features, calls patched through to your borrowed phone when you are outside of the hotel. While the four free mini-bar items per day are also a strong selling point, one of my favourites exists on the Club Lounge – accessible to all guests – on Level 4. Here, there’s a specially designed InTransit Zone where you can crawl into Brisbane’s only Sleep Pods and catch a nap before your next engagement. (I may or may not have stumbled across a man snatching some shut eye while I was checking out the pods, but, on this occasion, decided to leave the poor bloke alone).
I’d love to say it’s not often I stay in a hotel room that’s smarter than me, but who am I kidding? Quite often I struggle with even the most basic technology, such as how to turn off all the room lights, and NEXT was not different. At this point, I should disclose that some of the new technology wasn’t fully functional when I checked in last Friday, and a few other hotel guests reported the same experience. But credit where credit is due. Like all new hotels anywhere in the world there are always teething problems, and once the technical glitches are ironed out, NEXT will be setting the standard for other establishments around the country.
And let’s not forget NEXT is actually the old Lennon’s Hotel, built by John Lennon (not the musician) in the 18th century. Back in the day, this Grand Dame featured a ladies’ drawing room and nine bathrooms for its 62 bedrooms. Guests over the years have included former US President Lyndon Johnson, US General Douglas MacArthur, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and The Beatles. It terms of position, it’s arguably the best in the CBD, fronting the iconic Queen Street on one side – which includes the new Forever 21 store, the first in Australia – and Burnett Lane on the other, the oldest laneway in the CBD.
Almost every Brisbane resident has an association with Lennons, whether it was for a wedding or school formal, and quite cleverly, the hotel has retained the name in its Lennons Restaurant and Bar which supersedes any hotel restaurant with upmarket dining and some of the classiest cocktails in town. Guests can also partake in a tipple on the Level 4 pool terrace, which comes complete with an impressive lap pool ideal for Brisbane’s warm weather, and comfy couches which allow some perfect people watching down on to the Queen Street Mall below.
NEXT is also within strolling distance of the Queen Victoria Bridge and some of Brisbane’s other latest experiences. Save room in your tummy for a tour with Foodi.com.au, one of the newest dining treats to enter the Brisbane culinary scene. Join Shane Jackson as he takes you on a delectable tour of new entrants such as Cowch – the city’s first and only dedicated dessert bar. From this Saturday, November 1 until February 15, the nearby Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) will stage a new exhibition – Future Beauty, 30 Years of Japanese Fashion. In December, the Queensland Art Gallery and GoMA will showcase the Japanese contemporary art it has collected over the past 25 years.
Brissie residents also love their beer and The Charming Squire, located at nearby Grey Street, is James Squire’s new brew bar which focuses on craft beers plus simple and delicious food, all served up in these eclectic new premises at South Bank. Back at NEXT Hotel, do make sure you partake in one of their colourful cocktails. While all the classics are on the list, live a little and try something like the strawberry with balsamic. If only the ladies in the old Lennons drawing room were still around to experience this. They’d be tittering over the cocktails too. Yes, I said cockTAILS.
The Global Goddess was a guest of NEXT Hotel – http://www.silverneedlehotels.com/next/brisbane and Brisbane Marketing – http://www.brisbanemarketing.com.au Throughout November, Brisbane will be launching its Global Flavours program, where city restaurants, such as the iconic ARIA, will showcase their international flavours – http://www.bnecity.com.au
I REALLY should be cranky with Brisbane, yet I’m not. On the one weekend when I’m out wandering my hometown, foraging through her secret nooks and crannies in preparation for the Brisbane Festival, my sassy city decides to rain. Not just little kittens and puppies, but big cats and dogs with a bit of a windy whip in their tail, just for good measure. But being angry with Brisbane when it rains is like losing your cool at your well-behaved child when they act out of character. You know, the one who almost always is lovely, but every now and then Satan makes a surprise appearance. And so it is with Brisbane on this weekend, our thirsty city hasn’t seen a drop of rain in months, so it would be churlish of me to punish her for that.
And what that rain means is that when the Brisbane Festival bursts into bloom for three weeks from September 6, this pretty city is going to be so green, it will make every other Aussie capital emerald with envy. My wanderings begin at Fortitude Valley’s Alpha Mosaic Hotel, the latest entrant in Brisbane’s vertical community. Urban chic meets retro here with splashes of orange chairs and purple walls and, a rarity for Brisbane, a stone fireplace in the lobby. But the real treat here is on the rooftop of this hotel/apartment complex which not only has its own herb garden for residents, but 360 degree views of the city, an ideal vantage point for the culmination of the Brisbane Festival with Riverfire’s fireworks.
On towards New Farm and Jan Power’s Farmer’s Markets I tumble, where the weather may be wet, but the stallholders’ wits are dry and the produce crisp. The Powerhouse will host some of the Brisbane Festival’s key performances including The Shadow King, an Indigenous slant on Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Monkey…Journey to the West, a take on the 1970s cult classic Monkey Magic.
While surprise events and pop-up performances will be detonating all over the city, the leading lady of the Brisbane Festival will be South Bank in what is Australia’s only custom-designed cultural precinct. Among the many restaurants and bars poised to embrace the festival, Champ Kitchen & Bar will be one of the heroes, with specially-designed cocktails such as The Green Martini made from absinthe and Bacardi (a major festival sponsor) and served with green apple jam; as well as The Royal Bellini, built on strawberries, wine and Grand Marnier to tie in with the burlesque theme of the nearby Spiegeltent.
Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Noel Staunton says around 82 performances will be staged around the city during those three weeks in September, with many of them free. The cheapest ticketed performance starts at $15 with the most expensive at $180, making the festival accessible to everyone. And half of the festival tickets have already been sold.
“Once the festival starts there is the impetus to go and see shows. For me it is about creating debate. It is not about a show being good or bad. It is about seeing things that people normally wouldn’t see for the rest of the year,” Noel says.
“We employ hundreds of local artists and have a policy where we involve every arts organisation in the city. It’s about a party. It’s about having a go and having a good time. Not every show is about high-end culture.
“For me, it’s about a city having a different feel for a three-week period that is nice and easy and just fun. I very much like to see this city up late because this city goes to bed so early.”
One of the most ambitious festival highlights will be when 100 light horsemen ride across the city’s iconic Story Bridge, a cultural clip clop to the Black Diggers performance at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, which pays homage to the Indigenous Australian soldiers who fought in World War One. At the Courier-Mail Piazza at South Bank, Soap will be a contemporary circus, comedy and cabaret and will involve seven bathtubs, while at the Queensland Conservatorium, an opera will explore the city’s 2011 deluge with Floods.
It’s the last festival for Noel, who has been at the helm for the past five years, and cites a performance in 2010 in which festival-goers were invited to attend a giant sauna theatre performance – buck naked – as his most audacious event. Perhaps that’s the year that Brisbane really learnt to let its hair down, so to speak. Who knows? But on this wet weekend, when Noel sits in a noughts and crosses collared shirt and talks about the entertainment game, one thing is perfectly clear. You can’t guarantee the weather, but Brisbane is in for a blast.
STAY: Alpha Mosaic Hotel Brisbane – http://www.alphamosaichotelbrisbane.com.au
SEE: Brisbane Festival (September 6 – 27) – http://www.brisbanefestival.com.au
EAT & DRINK: Champ Kitchen & Bar – http://www.champkitchenandandbar.com.au; Newstead Brewing Co – http://www.newsteadbrewing.com.au; Green Beacon Brewing Co – http://www.greenbeacon.com.au; Tipplers Tap – http://www.tipplerstap.com.au; Gerard’s Bistro – http://www.gerardsbistro.com.au
DO: Brisbane Greeters offer free guided tours of Brisbane’s precincts – http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au/brisbane-greeters
The Global Goddess was a guest of Brisbane Marketing. For a comprehensive calendar of events and things to see and do in Brisbane go to http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au
POISED TO PARTY IN PHUKET
One of the Global Goddess’ favourite places on the planet is Phuket. I love the beaches, the bars, the vibe. I’m not talking the crazy Patong part, but other parts of the island which embody the Thai’s verve for life, without bumping into southern-cross tattoos on every corner. This year, I was lucky to go to Thailand not once, but three times and twice to Phuket in which I explored the emerging beach club scene. One of my favourite places is at XANA in the Laguna Phuket precinct which is kicking off the official start to Phuket’s high season with a Carnival party on December 14. Hang out in this stunning beachfront location with its 35-metre pool (there’s even chairs in the pool on which to relax), state-of-the-art sound system and a food and cocktail menu (does anything beat a lychee martini?). XANA’s onsite accommodation Angsana Laguna Phuket is also offering 30 percent off room bookings throughout Carnival. http://www.xanabeachclub.com
THE BEST OF BRISBANE
For those of us not heading overseas this summer, a new Brisbane Marketing campaign is designed to remind us of all of the great reasons to take a break in Brissie during the summer holiday season. This innovative campaign reminds Brissos of their own backyard with beautiful destinations such as Moreton Bay, Redlands, Logan, Ipswich, the Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Somerset all just a short drive away. Think Brisbane, think boring? Think again. Locals and visitors can spot dugongs in Pumicestone Passage, hot-air balloon over the countryside, or camp on the white sand of North Stradbroke Island, among a swag of summer experiences. And, just launched this week, Brisbane’s award-winning hotel The Emporium is paying homage to the European Summer through a new cocktail menu promising a glimpse of the Amalfi Coastline, sunset at Cannes, and a cliff top at Santorini. There will be classics with a twist, summer punch mixes, gin specials, this Pavlova martini (pictured below) and Emporium favourites. The Global Goddess is thirsty already. http://www.brisbanemarketing.com.au and http://www.emporiumhotel.com.au
HEY MR TAMBORINE MAN
Still on the subject of Queensland (it’s hard to get The Global Goddess off of this), gorgeous Mt Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, has just welcomed its first six-star accommodation with Skylodge – an exclusive luxury residence. We’re talking modern timber, glass and linear steel, to maximise the views down the valley, and all those quintessential Queensland features like wide verandas, a corrugated iron roof (which makes the most divine sound when it rains) and weatherboards. The lodge is designed for joint stays with friends (did someone say girls’ weekend?) or families, and even couples can hire a single room. You can also order private yoga classes, in-house massage, a serenading violinist and a personal chef on request. The whole lodge costs just $1800 a night and boasts two suites. http://www.skylodge.com.au
BEST SPA NONE
Environmental advocates EarthCheck have just released a global spa standard which outlines 12 benchmarks which should be followed by those wishing to meet an internationally-recognised standard. These include: water consumption; energy consumption; water saving; water source; water sent to landfill; waste recycling; community commitment; community contributions; paper products; treatment and cleaning products; pesticide products; and staff wellness. Given the growth in the spa industry in the past 15 years, Taking off her face mask and putting on her green hat for a minute, The Global Goddess reckons it’s important to main standards to support sustainability. And did you know, the word spa originates from the Latin salus per aquam which means “health through water”. I’ll drink to that. http://www.earthcheck.org
SPEAKING OF SPAS
While we are still speaking of spas, The Global Goddess would like to shine the spotlight on one in which she’s been interested for a while. AYANA Resort and Spa Bali was the international resort destination selected for filming of America’s Next Top Model. While she is neither a top model, nor American, The Global Goddess reckons this secluded resort, perched on cliffs above Jimbaran Bay, looks pretty spectacular. There’s 290 rooms and 78 private pool villas and I believe some innovative spa treatments here. And another language lesson: AYANA actually means “place of refuge” in Sanskrit. Any day now. Any day. http://www.ayanaresort.com