Tales from in Transit

Photo courtesy of Intrepid Travel


ENSCONCED in an international airline lounge you can be anyone in the world. This journey begins in the Emirates Lounge in Brisbane, where, wrapped in my purple pashmina, I pretend I am a princess of Persia. I am whiling away the hours before my flight to the Middle East, dreaming of delicious dates that dance around my mouth like music, and figs that foxtrot. I snack on bright beetroot hummus and tangy tabouli. There’s beef carpaccio with truffle pecorino. I swirl Moet around my palate to wash down white and dark chocolate profiteroles with chiboust cream filling. It’s a delectable start to an exotic trip.

Fourteen hours later, and I land in Dubai where, in this Emirates Lounge, I am a maiden of Morocco, my ultimate destination for this travel tale. This close to my delicious destination, I can already smell the souks. The riads are becoming real. In this luxe lounge I sip mint tea, take a spiffy shower and daydream of cool Casablanca nights where I am Bergman in search of her Bogart. In another six hours, the warm north African breeze will frizz my hair and curl my mind. I can’t wait to wrap the foreign place names around my tongue. Marrakech sounds like a lover. Fez, like someone who could betray me. There will be desert nights and delights. Camel rides and sleeping under the stars. Haggling in the heat. Sandals and sand storms. Mosques and mountains. I am brimming with wonderment.

International airline lounges offer us that rare, brief, delightful pause in our travels. I want to announce to all of the other strangers with whom I share this sacred space that I’m off to Casablanca, slowly sounding out each brilliant consonant. But they are entwined in their own fabulous fantasies. Instead, I use this as a chance to stretch my legs and unleash my over-stimulated mind, allowing it to roam free. For it is here, waiting in airports, that we forage among our imagination and dare to dream of new horizons and bold beginnings. We think of old lovers and new friends we are yet to meet. As for Emirates, it’s one of the best in the business. Would I travel with them again? Play it again, Sam.
The Global Goddess was a guest in both lounges of Emirates https://www.emirates.com/au/english/ and is travelling in Morocco as a guest of Intrepid Travel https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/morocco/morocco-uncovered-100927

Just Sleep On It


I DON’T wish to be a braggart, but I have finally found the one exercise class at which I excel. Sleeping. And if you don’t think that counts as physical fitness, then you’d better talk to the fine folk at Brisbane’s InspireCycle gym, for it is here that late last week I discovered my special gift. Yes, I attended my first Napercise class. What is Napercise? Well, this pop-up class at the Teneriffe-based fitness centre, sponsored by Naptime Australia who specialise in all sorts of sleeping products, is an exercise class where you basically, well, have a nap. Yes, I forked out $15 to drive across the other side of the city on a Friday afternoon, to have a 45-minute sleep.

I’d read about this a few weeks prior on Facebook and was intrigued by the concept. It’s all the rage in major cities like London and New York and it appears Brisbane has now leapt into bed on the act. But what does one wear? Should I buy a baby pink pig onesie for this class? Who else would be there? Would I meet the man of my dreams (see what I did there?). What if I snore? What if someone else snores, can I smother them with a pillow? So many questions plagued my every waking hour leading up to this class.

Driving across Brisbane mid afternoon Friday I could see the last stragglers dragging their sorry bottoms back to their-city offices after lunch for those last, utterly miserable moments of the working week. “I’m going to nap class,” I wanted to shout out of my car window at the traffic lights. I could feel their weariness in every bone in my body.

I arrive at class and my instructor Tess bounces out of the nap room. She’s just had a nap herself. I look around me and it slowly dawns on me that I am the only one here. Tess says they’ve been attracting between 9 and 12 people every day for the past two weeks of the pop up, but today being a Friday, and the last day of Napercise (for now), turns out I’m the only one.

So I’ve paid $15 and driven across the other side of the city on a busy Friday afternoon to lay in a room on my own and nap? I could have done this at home. I smile at the irony. There’s half a dozen beds in the middle of the room from which to choose and another four over near the wall. I feel like an exotic blend between Goldilocks and Sleeping Beauty. I choose the bed closest to the door and Tess takes me through some basic stretches. Then, she lifts up the doona, invites me to slide into bed (on my own, no monkey business here, although Tess is rather lovely) and put on an eye mask, before she tucks me in and leaves the room.

I lay in the middle of a cavernous gym room, on my own, under a doona trying not to laugh. I feel like I am on school camp without the other campers. Should I try to sleep? What if Tess forgets about me and doesn’t come back to wake me up in 45 minutes as promised. What if she closes the gym for the night and goes home? I reason with myself that at least I have a bed. I also figure gyms always have energy drinks and bliss balls. There’s always bloody bliss balls. I won’t starve, they have showers and toilets, I have food and water, and I’ve got somewhere comfy to sleep. But worse, what if this is a front for some white woman slave trade and one minute I’m slipping under a doona in Brisbane, and the next, I wake up on a cold, hard slab in Istanbul with a scar where one of my kidneys is meant to be?

I’ve just finished this trapped-in-a-gym fantasy when Tess returns to the room and gently tells me it’s time to wake up. She asks whether I slept and looks disappointed when I tell her I only really rested. (If only she knew what my mind was churning through). I assure her it was a nice rest, and anyway, I’m a huge fan of quirky and this was definitely quirky. Tess then presents me with a free pair of slippers, socks and a facial mask, telling me everyone who attends Napercise gets a gift. I jump in my car and drive home. Frankly, I’m exhausted and I can’t wait to get to bed.
(Postscript: the next day I wake up to an email from InspireCycle and I’ve “earned” 20 points towards another class for my “efforts” in this class).

The Global Goddess paid for her own Napercise Class at InspireCycle, Teneriffe. Check out their website for other great classes http://www.inspirecycle.com.au If Naptime’s beds were as comfortable as the one on which I rested, you might also want to check out this Australian company, and other Napercise classes around the country, at http://www.naptime.com.au

Destination Hibernation


“This year I do not want the dark to leave me. I need its wrap of silent stillness, its cloak of long-lasting embrace. Let the dawns come late, let the sunsets arrive early, let the evenings extend themselves while I lean into the abyss of my being,” Joyce Rupp, Winter’s Cloak

IN summer, we learn to live again. In winter, we learn about ourselves. And the presence of a wild snake on one’s back deck is, arguably, one of life’s great teachers. I used to be scared of snakes, having grown up in country Queensland where scorching summers were punctuated by frequent snake sightings. Red Belly Blacks and King Browns were the order of the day out there, the type of rebellious reptiles that could easily kill a small child. And so I learned to fear those slithering serpents of my youth. But several years ago, when I first spotted a carpet snake on my back deck, I decided to finally face my fear. On the one hand, this was made much easier by the fact it’s a harmless common Eastern Australian carpet python. On the other hand, a snake is still a snake.

Anastasia arrived first, who departed only to be replaced by Sylvia, who grew from a one-metre juvenile in the first year, into a three-metre monster by her third. Too fat to fit back into the ceiling cavity, she departed, only to be replaced by Saskia, who arrived about a year ago. Saskia, like Sylvia, was also slim, but with a ready diet of bush rats and possums right out the back, she too has grown. And now she’s possibly the fattest snake I’ve ever seen. My anaconda girl also measures about three metres long, but sports the beer belly of a Brisbane bogan. Lay off the possums, I want to advise, particularly given I gain great comfort from their roaring thunder along my timber roof late at night. To me, that’s the soundtrack to living in Brisbane, and I love it.

So, what have I learned from my snake this winter? The first lesson is that it’s important to slow down. While my snake is still surprisingly active, even in winter, she moves at a slower pace. She basks on the back deck in the winter sunshine, that I, too crave. Learn to love the softer light, she seems to whisper to me. Take the time to laze. Stretch. Sleep. We need these seasons to rejuvenate. Reflect. Retreat inwards. For in a place like Brisbane, where the summers are long and lusty, it’s too easy to keep running. And run out of steam.

My sassy Saskia has also taught me while it’s important to eat, don’t eat too much. Fuelled by her latest possum catch, and a ridiculously distended belly, she tried and failed many times to return to her ceiling cavity the other afternoon as the sun signalled its early afternoon departure. She crawled and wiggled and pretty much looked like I do every winter when it comes to trying on that first pair of jeans. Eventually, she gave up. And whether she will return is anyone’s guess. I’ve learned to grow OK with that too.

She’s taught me to shed my skin a little. Be vulnerable. And she’s taught me to face my fears. In an ideal world, there would be no wild snakes on my back deck. But history has taught me that not long after one has departed, another one arrives. They are territorial like that. And so, I must embrace this paradigm. Just as winter follows autumn, the seasons will keep on changing. I used to hate winter too. The short days, the cold mornings, being constrained by too many clothes. By nature I’m a summer frock girl who loves being in the water. Those beautiful balmy evenings, bare feet and ice-cold beer. But I’m slowly learning that life is also about embracing the shadow side. Not only in nature, but in myself and others. Instead of rejecting the things I dislike about myself, learning to acknowledge them as a part of a greater sum.

I’m back on the yoga mat this winter, a nourishing alternative when the water is too cold in which to swim, and last week we celebrated the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. The days are starting to grow longer and pretty soon, they will grow warmer again. But for now, I’m going to relish the words of Joyce Rupp: “Let me lie in the cave of my soul, for too much light blinds me, steals the source of revelation. Let me seek solace in the empty places of winter’s passage, those vast dark nights that never fail to shelter me.” Wherever you are in the world, whatever the season of your soul, I hope you find solace too.

Finding Refuge

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ON a balmy Brisbane evening I am slouched under a magnificent tree, savouring a plate of colourful African fare and sipping a Tusker malt lager. There’s but a whisper of a wind on this hot summer evening, just enough to scatter the tree’s tiny white flowers onto the faded tablecloth like confetti. The flowers fall into my hair and onto my head, like little sparks of inspiration.
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I’m at Mu’ooz Eritrean Restaurant in West End, surrounded by fellow writers, artists, poets, singers and daydream believers, attending Wild Readings. I blew in here a little like the white flowers, an invitation from a friend to join this underground movement of creatives, who gather on the third Tuesday of every month. It is here that they soak up the collective juices, which are threatened with drought when you are alone for too long in a big city, stalked by the shadows of conformity.
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The host opens the night by describing Wild Readings as a “public series for the storyteller in all of us.”
“We’d like to build a community of storytellers and people who just want to listen to words,” she says.
There are four readings in this delicious hour, Alanna uses art to tell stories about mental health and is reading from her book called “The Letter R” for Resilience. You need a lot of resilience to be a writer anywhere in the world, and it’s apt for this setting in which I find myself.
Tina is a published author and runs a children’s and young adults’ writers conference in Brisbane, fuelling the fire of future generations of crazy creatives.
Really, they should be building asylums for those of us insane enough to keep striking the keyboard in a world which begs us to do otherwise. And yet, thank God, we continue.
Annie, a program co-ordinator for newly-arrived refugees, picks up a ukulele and strums her story. There are others, a couple of poets and an author, but it’s Annie and her uke which strike a literal and metaphorical chord with me this evening.
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I didn’t leave the house expecting to find a story, but in this salacious setting how could I not? Not only am I inspired by the passion and prose of my fellow artists, but Mu’ooz itself is a not-for-profit social enterprise, established by Eritrean Refuge Women, which assists women arriving in Brisbane from many parts of Africa.
Shortly before the evening begins, I stumble across Manager Saba Abraham, who opened the West End location three years ago and since then has provided training and employment for more than 100 refugee women.
“We provide a pathway to employment with many of the women now employed in other places including schools, factories and cleaning jobs,” she says.
“The program aims to give them confidence and help them understand the workforce.
“Women refugees have minimal employment opportunities and many of them have never had any education in their country, therefore finding it extremely challenging in Australia, to learn the language and secure employment.
“Many of them feel like this is home to them, it is much more than a workplace.”
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Saba tells me the business is not without its challenges, rents in West End are high and there is still a disconnect between mainstream Australia and what they are trying to achieve, even in this socially-progressive suburb.
Which is a great shame, as the food here is different and delicious, boasting many dishes and ingredients even a well-travelled Australian palate may have never tasted such as Enjera – savoury purple pancakes; Silsie – a traditional Eritrean sauce; Berbere – traditional hot pepper seasoning; and Tasame – butter flavoured with Eritrean herbs and spices.
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I sip on my second Tusker malt lager, a beer I’ve never encountered before – and the white leaves keep falling on my head, urging me to write this story. A tale of a little courtyard in Brisbane, a meeting of people with big hearts and those cursed with that damn desire to write.
We are gathered on the traditional land of the Jagera, Yuggera and Yuggerapul people and we pay homage to them. A Yuggera elder has penned a Welcome to Country for us: “Everything sits in a circle around us. When we open ourselves to looking and listening it allows us to connect with Mother Earth, everyone’s Mother.”
On this hot night, I embrace the circle of refugees and creatives and watch as those tiny flowers keep falling, reminding me to keep writing.
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The next Wild Readings will be held on Tuesday, Feb 21 at Mu’ooz West End at 6pm for 6.30pm. You can join Wild Readings on their Facebook page. To dine at Mu’ooz and support their incredible work, go to http://www.muooz.com.au

Mission: Relax

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I AM lounging in a pool observing a 747 soar above me, indulging in two of my favourite past times: swimming and plane spotting, in this case, simultaneously. I feel a little like a Bond girl, clad only in a bikini in a secret spot of one of the world’s busiest airports. Stopover: Singapore. Final Destination: Male. And my mission? To relax enroute to my assignment.
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It’s a signature Singapore Saturday afternoon, the humidity as high as a Serbian spy, and I have stripped from my trademark all-black travel clothes which I fancy make me look sophisticated, but in truth are only to disguise the fact I spill plane drinks and food all over me when I fly. Changi Airport is buzzing below, but I am ensconced in the peace of the Plaza Premium Group’s Aerotel transit hotel.
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Fellow agent S (for sister) and I land in Singapore mid afternoon, slip undetected onto a free train, and scurry effortlessly to Terminal 1. The Aerotel Hotel is perched near Gate D41, and comes replete with clean, comfortable hotel rooms, a library/lounge area, and best of all, the swimming pool – touted as the only absolute airside pool in the world.
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Here, in this cool pool, you can order a beer and watch the tails on the tarmac. This funky facility is ideal for travellers such as me who fly often, in economy, (under the guise of being a travel writer) and need some rest or space to work.
While there are a number of packages on offer here, depending if you simply want a room, or a swim, one of the best is the Swim, Eat, Tan, Run, Repeat package where you can plunge into the pool, snatch a shower and enjoy a meal and drink for as little as USD25 for three hours.
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On this journey, I also had access to a room whose comfortable beds rival those in any five-star hotel in which I’ve stayed. My only complaint: there was no hair conditioner in the shower. (Hey, even secret agents have their vanity). And while the bar had a good selection of international and local beers and other alcohol, the food menu could be drastically improved, particularly in a destination such as Singapore which is renowned for its dining.
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The Aerotel Hotel falls under the umbrella of the Plaza Premium Group – the world’s largest independent airport lounge network which has another transit hotel of the same name in Abu Dhabi and Plaza Premium Lounges in Brisbane, London Heathrow, Hong Kong, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. Sydney Sky Lounge is also managed by the Plaza Premium Group which was also appointed to manage Cathay Pacific’s First and Business Class Lounges in London Heathrow from December. Anyway who has ever watched a Bond movie knows it all happens around Heathrow, so this is a strategic move in my humble opinion.
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On my journey home through Changi Airport from the Maldives, S and I had around three to four hours to kill (or was that people?) and chose Singapore’s Plaza Premium Lounge, also in Terminal 1, at the opposite end to the Aerotel Hotel. (Best to mix it up so we don’t arouse suspicions). The atmosphere in this 7000 square foot lounge is one of pure relaxation and again, you can buy a package which includes drinks, food, shower and lounge seating. All-day dining includes signature Singapore dishes such as laksa and chicken rice, but again I found the food surprisingly bland and uninspiring. The bar, however, was well stocked with good quality house red and white wines, among spirits and beers.
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This is a lovely lounge in which to while away a few hours in one of its many nooks and crannies with everything from three private resting suites, six shower rooms, two VIP rooms, massage and nail care services, free Wi-Fi, charging stations, flight information, baggage handling, TV channels, and a selection of newspapers and magazines.
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Back in my hometown of Brisbane (or is it, really?), two weeks later I flew out to Indonesia on my final assignment of 2016, and I opted to check out the latest lounge in the Plaza Premium Group, which is a welcome addition to Brisbane International Airport. The Brisbane lounge is the first of the brand in Australia and is located on Level 4 between departure gates 81 and 82. With a seating capacity of 100 over 4500 square feet, it’s furnished with Victorian ash wood and Italian marble flooring in the bar area. A feature wall of 3D tiles are inspired by the components of water, sand and minerals in Australia and soaring windows fill the lounge with natural sunlight and offer views over the terminal and runway.
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This state-of-the-art lounge also boasts a Wellness Spa where professionally-trained therapists use Australian spa products from Brisbane-based Jasmin Organics. But for $49 for a 15-minute hand therapy, particularly for travellers like me who are flying to Bali, prices are steep. In the lounge itself, guests also enjoy free Wi-Fi, charging stations, a hot meal buffet, salad bar, freshly-brewed barista-made coffee, and alcohol, soft drinks and juices. Again, I found the food selection a little uninspiring and had to ask several times for a champagne from staff who didn’t quite understand my request. I mean, it was 8am, but a spy needs a drink. There are some criticisms that the entry fee is too expensive for a Brisbane flying public, particularly compared to places like Singapore, but when I was there the lounge was pumping.
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Overall, I enjoyed my brief sojourn in Brisbane’s Plaza Premium Lounge, and as I perched on the signature honeycomb seating and contemplated my last trip of 2016, I nearly didn’t leave. But Agent M was calling, and she wanted me on that plane.
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The Global Goddess was a guest of the Plaza Premium Group. For more details go to http://www.plazapremiumgroup.com

2106: The year I followed my animal instincts

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I AM sitting in my hot Brisbane office dressed in a leopard-print summer dress, reflecting on my life as a travel writer in 2016. Let’s not beat around the boiling bush, it was always going to be a quirky one after I kicked off the year in January at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat on the Gold Coast where I spent an hour in a one-on-one mediation session with a horse, of course.
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Yes, Jack, the 22-year-old horse, was quite the listener and as it turned out, I was a good learner, discovering more about myself in that paddock than years of therapists have been to unravel. Working with my breath, and the fact horses are instinctive creatures, I was able to go from having Jack walk away from me (apparently I hate rejection) to have Jack trotting around the ring by the end of the session, based purely on my inner calm and emotions. He even stopped on cue when I exhaled. In that one crowded hour I learned I am prone to being a bit of a bull at a gate, and expecting others to join me on my crazy schemes, without first checking that they’re on board. Jack, you taught me a lot.
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In February, and in the name of another story, I plunged into the warm waters off Lord Howe Island for Ocean Swim Week with World Ironman Champion Ali Day and Pinetrees Lodge. I’d never swum out in the open ocean before and learned that it was far more different and difficult to the university pool in which I try to carve up a daily 1km. Swimming among reef sharks and over fantastic coral, I also learned I could overcome sea sickness in rough swells and complete an impressive 2-3km a day. I also learned I’m incredibly stubborn once I push through an initial lack of confidence. Salty and stubborn. And I wonder why I’m single.
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March saw me in Fiji, working with the fine folk at the Outrigger Fiji Resort and writing stories about some innovative and compassionate community projects in which they are involved, building new kindergartens and maternity wards. That kindy opened last week and it was heartening to know I was there at that pivotal point in history with people who have so little, but find so much reason for joy. Want perspective on your life? Head to the South Pacific. Sit under a coconut tree and pull your head out of your proverbial. It will change you, I promise.
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In April, I was in Germany on a beer tour, also in the name of research, and if you think I had to train for Ocean Swim Week, it’s like I was born for Beer Week. And to think successive maths teachers over the years said I would never amount to anything. Add to that a dash of Mother Nature where I summited Germany’s highest mountain…and by summit I mean taking a gondola to the top and promptly order a beer and goulash. Because I’m hard-core. I explored my animal instinct here by taking to Bavarian Tinder and I was quite the hit in Germany. Not that I had time to actually meet any of my Bavarian boyfriends, but I got the distinct impression they were different to Brisbane boys and not once did anyone send me a photo of their penis. #winning
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May turned out to be a journey of a different kind where I had some long-awaited tests and surgery for health symptoms that killed a fellow travel writer last year. While my tests turned out fine, the surgery laid me up for four weeks in incredible pain, and it was a time to reflect and go inwards, something I’m not particularly good at. But when Mother Nature speaks, sometimes you have to listen and it was a good life lesson. I did have a moment of truth while awaiting those test results, questioning myself on whether I was living the life I wanted. And the answer was yes. By June, when I was back on the road in Vienna and Monaco, exploring Royal and Imperial Luxury Europe, I was thrilled. I may have even danced around the house just prior to leaving to Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again. Because I have an excellent taste in music.
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In July, I braved a chilly Toowoomba trip to explore the city’s sensational street art. And it blew my socks off. Not literally, as that would have been unpleasant in the cold, but metaphorically. I also took my first trip to Darwin and again, was thrilled by the Northern Territory capital with its outdoor cinemas, national parks, and great dining and accommodation offerings. This is a city which celebrates its sunsets, with hundreds of residents and tourists flocking to the beach to watch the sun plunge into the ocean and that, in itself, was a magical moment. A destination which sells tickets to its annual festival out of an original caravan used to house homeless people after 1974’s Cyclone Tracy? You’ve gotta love that.
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August saw me at Sabi Sabi Private Game Lodge in South Africa on a luxury safari and yes, I was lucky to experience the Big 5, plus all the rest. Mother Africa and her beautiful people stole a piece of my heart and I came home reeling from Jo’Burg’s street art to Robben Island where the mighty Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 year jail term. There’s usually about one month of the year where I try to stop, pause, reflect and recharge and it was September this year, which also turned out to be my birthday month, and what a delight it was to be a normal person again, catching up with friends, going to yoga classes, and just “sitting with myself” as we say in meditation.
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In October, I was out on the road again, on my longest trip of the year to Canada where I started in Vancouver, sitting in a traditional indigenous sweat lodge with an elder, talking to our ancestors. But the absolute highlight of that three-week journey was the opportunity to go on a walking safari with the polar bears with Churchill Wild. I discovered that the Lord of the Arctic was to be respected, not feared, and that if we don’t manage the way we treat the planet, polar bears may be relegated to the history books.
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The conservation theme continued into last month, November, when I jumped on a plane to the Maldives Outrigger Konotta Resort and spent a fascinating few days talking with a marine biologist who is trying to resurrect the reef with innovative coral planting strategies. On a monsoonal Monday I sat on the edge of a jetty weaving coral necklaces from coconut rope that would later be implanted on the reef, in a moment I will always remember when my fingers are no longer nimble and I’m too old to travel. From the Arctic, where the ice is melting, to the Indian Ocean, which is becoming too warm, I had the immense privilege of experiencing the impacts of Climate Change first hand.
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Which brings me to December. In two days I’ll be boarding a plane for my last travel writing assignment of the year. And yes, this trip has another animal theme. I’ll be boarding a sailing boat and exploring beyond Bali to the islands around Indonesia, before we arrive at the land of the komodo dragons. Along the way we’ll be snorkelling with manta rays and sharks. And I cannot wait. Yes, it’s been a big year, and moments of great challenge, times when you are so jetlagged you want to weep, a deep-seated loneliness from long weeks out on the road, and a disconnect from normal life. I didn’t find the love of my life, but I know he’s out there. And when I’m out in the world, doing what I love best, hunting and gathering stories, there’s no better feeling on the planet. I wish you a Happy Christmas and may 2017 be everything you dreamed of and more.
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The Global Goddess would like to thank all of the tourism and travel operators, local communities, kind random strangers, PR people, publishers, editors and fellow writers, who joined her on the incredible journey that was 2016. See you out there in 2017.
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Flying High

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PLONKED against the bar at 30,000 feet, I am most unreliably informed by an English woman that I have a British accent. And I can’t even blame the roar of the plane engine for her remarkably missing my distinct Australian twang. For I have the ultimate fortune of not only flying on the peaceful A380 aircraft between Brisbane and Dubai, but I am sitting among the rarified atmosphere which is Emirates Business Class.
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Not for me the hoi polloi with whom I normally associate, seat 10K has my name written all over it and I intend to make the most of my 14-hour journey to Dubai. So excited am I by this unlikely twist of fate, that I scoot through security, haplessly leaving my computer on the conveyor belt. But Lady Luck is mine tonight, and I remember it just before I officially pass through Immigration. Not even the dour demeanour of Australia’s Border Farce (Force) Officers (is that a forbidden apple in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?) can dent my passion this evening.
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Normally I sit among the Beryls and Darrens from Logan in an airline bar, observing with the same fascination one would a wildlife documentary, as they sink as much alcohol as is humanely possible. Bez and Daz then stagger onto the plane and it’s ultimately me and the scent of Bundy Rum seeping from their pores, in seats 70K, J and H to Europe. But not tonight. It’s privacy screens and Veuve all the way for me.
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It’s challenging to stay cool when one is elevated above one’s station in life, but I handle it with all of the aplomb of the absolutely fabulous Patsy and Eddie combined. In fact, Emirates Business Class lounge is so ab fab, I could essentially live there nestled among the prawn canapes, but on I push, boarding the plane directly via an air bridge to the upper deck and straight into Business Class. My only regret is that I don’t get to see the stricken faces of Bez and Daz as they pause longingly at my lie-flat bed as they make their way to economy. I know that look, I invented it.
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What to do first? Order from the five-course dinner menu? Sip a Perrier from the private mini bar in my seat? Select a program from one of more than 2200 on-demand channels of my 20 inch HD LCD screen? Paralysed by choice I dash to the bathroom to gather myself. And it’s not my fault, but at the back of Business Class, on the way to said toilet, sits Emirates’ Onboard Lounge. Yes, a sky bar. And while I did truly intend to simply go to the bathroom, I would be lying if I said I didn’t spot a bottle of Moet and settle in for a drink and conversation with the English woman to whom I referred earlier who mistook my Aussie accent for something far more refined.
A380 First and Business Class Onboard Lounge1
I also meet two lovely women on their way to South Africa, such is the beauty of travelling on a world-class airline which flies through a major hub, but alas, the man of my dreams was not to eventuate on this particular journey. You’d think up here you could just open a bottle of champagne and, like a genie out he’d pop, but nothing. Not a puff.
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But a lack of love is not going to destroy this magical evening and after dinner, a movie and a few more sneaky drinks, I sashay into my lie-flat bed and stare at the constellation-like lights on the Emirates ceiling. Permit me to make one small criticism, and that is while the beds are sublime, the Business Class bedding is not as good as some of the other carriers on which I’ve been fortunate to fly. The pillows are small and flat and it’s a slightly meagre blanket, rather than a plump doona, in this scenario. But the world-class service more than makes up for these tiny irks.
Bed
I arrive in Dubai refreshed and relaxed and head straight to the Emirates Business Class lounge where breakfast is being served. It’s my second brekkie for the morning, so I opt for a heart-starting Bloody Mary (or two) instead. I’m enroute to Vienna and then Monaco, researching Royal and Imperial luxury European stories, and it’s the ultimate start to a work trip. I have no idea where Bez and Daz were headed on this airline’s vast network, but knowing Emirates, even in its award-winning Economy Class, I’m sure they had a great flight too. But just for once, I’m glad I didn’t have share in every detail of their journey.
The Global Goddess travelled Business Class courtesy of Emirates – http://www.emirates.com and stayed in Vienna as a guest of the Austrian National Tourist Office – http://www.austria.info/au and in Monaco as a guest of the Monaco Government Tourist & Convention Authority – http://www.visitmonaco.com

Win a trip to Europe with Rail Europe

Switzerland. get natural. The Brienzer Rothorn steam-powered cogwheel train in the Bernese Oberland. View of Lake Brienz.  Schweiz. ganz natuerlich. Die Brienzer Rothorn Dampfzahnradbahn im Berner Oberland. Blick auf den Brienzersee.  Suisse. tout naturellement. Le train a cremaillere a vapeur du Rothorn de Brienz, dans l'Oberland bernois. Vue du lac de Brienz.  Copyright by: Switzerland Tourism  By-Line: swiss-image.ch / Christof Sonderegger

Switzerland. get natural. The Brienzer Rothorn steam-powered cogwheel train in the Bernese Oberland. View of Lake Brienz.
Schweiz. ganz natuerlich. Die Brienzer Rothorn Dampfzahnradbahn im Berner Oberland. Blick auf den Brienzersee.
Suisse. tout naturellement. Le train a cremaillere a vapeur du Rothorn de Brienz, dans l’Oberland bernois. Vue du lac de Brienz.
Copyright by: Switzerland Tourism By-Line: swiss-image.ch / Christof Sonderegger


THIRTY years ago I experienced my first encounter with a European train and was instantly hooked. I had just journeyed some 36 hours from Australia on what was also my first ever plane ride anywhere, and arrived in Frankfurt to catch the train to Hamburg to meet what would be my new German “family” for the next three months. It was winter, I was wearing an entirely unsuitable pink tracksuit and ugg boots for a Queensland teenager who’d never even seen snow (I mean, who do you think introduced Europe to the ugg boot?). As I alighted the train they asked me about my journey. “I’ve been travelling for 36 clocks,” I declared, delighted to finally practice my high school German on real-life Germans.
Winter travel Switzerland
Despite murdering their language, somehow they fell in love with me and I with them, as well as travelling by rail around Europe. The only other train I’d ever been on before then was the Ipswich Line from Ipswich to Brisbane, or the “big smoke” as we called it back in 1970s country Queensland. Apart from that, my transport options had been limited to the gold Kingswood family station wagon for our annual holidays to Coolangatta. Oh yes, we were living the dream back then. As the youngest of four children, I even got the best bed in our two-bedroom holiday flat…two seats pushed together. And they wonder why I’m bitter. So imagine my delight when not just one, but many countries I’d only read about in books instantly opened up to me with the flourish of a rail ticket.
Eurostar - Standard Premier
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, European trains have run late over the years, which isn’t great news when you are backpacker on a strict budget and need to snaffle that last hostel bed in Vienna or sleep at the station. Then there was the time back in the days Aussies needed visas to cross almost every bloody border in Europe, a conductor had unwittingly taken mine out of my passport as we nicked the corner of a country, only to attempt to arrive in the Czech Republic a week later to find not only did I not have a visa, but was considered a criminal. My passport was taken, I was forced to sit in a room for 12 hours without food, and I cried hysterically (yes, because crying always helps) until a train arrived late that night forcing me back into Poland that I had attempted to leave. Believe me, it was a long journey at midnight with a bunch of gypsies in my carriage asking for money every five minutes as the train headed towards Germany, and I was a little exhausted from all that crying. But it has become one of my best travel stories over the years.
Swiss 2
And that’s what travelling by train around Europe is all about, as regular readers have seen in my most recent blog posts. It’s real and it’s romantic. Nothing used to beat the glee only an impoverished Aussie backpacker can feel at catching an overnight train in one European country (hence saving on a night’s accommodation), only to wake up in the next. One night, on a train journey from Munich to Hamburg, my boyfriend at the time and I even covered our backpacks with sheets and pillows and pretended they were two extra people in our carriage to ensure we had the compartment to ourselves.
DB train Germany
And now, fellow Aussie bloggers have the chance to win their own Rail Europe adventure. Looking for creativity and inspiration? This is your big opportunity to unplug and daydream. Simply enter the #TailsOnRail competition at http://www.raileurope.com.au/deals/talesonrail and you, too, could be enjoying a trip to Europe. This is a great prize, which includes a flight to Paris, and a one-week train journey with Rail Europe from France to Switzerland. That’s right, flights, hotels, food and your rail tickets are included. Check it out, it could be your chance of a lifetime.
Schweiz. ganz natuerlich. Bernina Express: Chur-Tirano. Landwasserviadukt bei Filisur, 65m hoch und 136m lang. Wahrzeichen der RhB und UNESCO-Weltkulturerbe.

Schweiz. ganz natuerlich.
Bernina Express: Chur-Tirano. Landwasserviadukt bei Filisur, 65m hoch und 136m lang. Wahrzeichen der RhB und UNESCO-Weltkulturerbe.


For those who don’t win, or are considering a trip with Rail Europe, here’s some benefits to travelling by train around one of the truly great continents. By the way, Australia is the top-selling country for Rail Europe tickets.

1. No check-in queues, meaning you can rock up 10 minutes before the train departs (unless it’s the Eurostar, which requires a little bit more time).
2. City centre to city centre connections – no expensive cab charges and traffic.
3. Comfortable and spacious seats in all classes plus lots of legroom.
4. Power points for charging electronic devices – tablet, laptop, camera or phone.
5. No baggage limit, meaning great for shopping, though it’s not advisable to bring on too much or more than you can carry to ensure a comfortable journey for all.
6. Exposed to Europe’s stunning scenery throughout the journey.
7. Go wherever, whenever – a lot of flexibility with Passes.
8. High-speed services often trump flying or driving (no traffic, no queues plus all of the other benefits listed here).
eurostar_lunch
But wait…there’s more!
9. Cost efficient – tickets are cheap, especially when bought in advance – up to 70% off the regular price, bookable up to 120 days in advance.
10. Family friendly – certain trains have kid friendly carriages. In Switzerland, children under 16yo travel for free when accompanied by an adult and on the Eurail Pass, children under 11yo travel for free with a guardian.
11. Environmentally friendly – a lot less carbon emission than air travel or driving.
12. Convenient for day trips to neighbouring towns or wine region (no worries about drinking and driving!).
13. Travel overnight (save on hotel costs).
14. See Europe off the beaten track (with 240,000km of track, rail reaches to almost every corner of Europe that’s not accessible by road).
15. Great way to meet locals – Europe has an extremely efficient rail system used by most locals.
16. Good onboard dining services.
17. A wide of discounts and bonuses come along with the passes (check online).
To find our more, go to http://www.raileurope.com.au. All photos used in this blog are courtesy of Rail Europe.

Merry Christmas To You

Start
IT seems incongruous, but I am sitting down to pen my last blog for 2015. Equally unbelievable, I know, is that I’m still as single as when I sat down to write my first post this year. Yes, desperate and dateless as the New Year dawned, and staring down the barrel of yet another looming Valentine’s Day, in January I rejoined Bogandating.com (not its real name) and attracted the likes of blokes such as “Fairdinkumkiwi”, “Gazza”, and “DancingandRomance”. At this stage of the year/game I’d like to say (and kids, look away), based on my experience of dating sites in 2015, there is NO Santa Claus.
JanuaryOne
Purely by coincidence in January, I also interviewed a woman who launched The Self Pleasure Revolution. Yes, 35 women from Australia, England, Chile, America and the Netherlands signed up and paid $US89 to participate in conscious masturbation every day for three weeks. While I admired their tenacity, I indulged in my own self pleasure revolution of going to the bottle-o and consuming vast quantities of wine…a semi-conscious decision which has lasted much longer than three weeks and cost far more than $US89, but each to their own.
JanuaryTwo
In February I explored my own backyard, covering stories in Brisbane where I stayed in the New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites dating back to the 1920s; sauntered down to Brisbane’s south side to explore its heart and soul; and west to Ipswich where I went to high school more than two decades ago. Apart from taking my first hot air balloon ride over the Lockyer Valley where I grew up, on Brisbane’s south side I discovered the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale where the hum of Buddhist chants blended with the intoxicating sounds of silence. Here, I partook in an ancient tea ceremony where I learned that not only that tea is good for you, but apparently so is red wine. Just sayin.
FebruaryTwo
Just as the weather started to cool down in Brisbane in March, my travel schedule started to heat up. In one week I visited Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. In Indonesia, in my four-poster bed, replete with white chiffon curtains, I imagined I was an Indonesian High Priestess. I arrived at the Banyan Tree Bintan Island in my usual disheveled state, the effects of some aeroplane turbulence as we crossed the Equator, a reasonable swell on the ferry as we sailed across the South China Sea, several prescription drugs and red wine to fuel my travels, all beginning to wear off. But I remained chipper, for I was to sleep under this thatched Indonesian roof, or “alang alang”, in my seaside villa, skinny dip under the stars, and have several Asian women touch me inappropriately during a number of massages that wonderful week.
MarchOne
I was home for a grand total of three days…enough time to wash and repack my undies… before I was on a plane to Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. Having exhausted every possibility or hope of ever finding the man of my dreams in Australia, I cast the net wider. While I was in PNG writing a series of travel stories, never let it be said that I waste any opportunity to find love. What I really adore about my travels is that no matter in which new country I find myself, I merely need to tell a local that I’m looking for love and they are immediately on the case. In this instance, the lovely Lucy, a 50-year-old PNG woman who works at the Kokopo Beach Bungalows Resort, instantly became my latest wing woman. Every day Lucy told me that I was beautiful and that I even looked like her daughter “she has a sharp nose like you”. She said when I returned to Rabaul I must come and stay with her in her village and she’ll find me a man. I am planning a return visit any day now.
MarchTwo
In April, my sister and me escaped to Fiji for a short Easter break where we indulged in snorkelling, swimming and sunshine while gracefully fanning away hot weather and men who were hot for us (the last element of that sentence is simply not true). Weeks later I was up in Tropical North Queensland at Thala, out on a nature tour with Head Gardener Brett Kelly. The highlight of this three-hour tour occurred Brett husked a coconut for me to drink. It did not take much for me to disappear into fantasyland, picturing the man of my dreams clad only in loin cloth, presenting me with a husked coconut. Sensing my sexual fantasy, the happily-married Brett promptly disappeared in the rainforest, never to be seen by me again.
AprilTwo
While there were a number of domestic trips in May (back to Port Douglas and the Sunshine Coast), the absolute highlight was travelling to Vienna to cover Eurovision. Despite being in the gayest city of Europe at that point in time, I viewed this trip as a chance to snag me some single European royalty (and a much-coveted EU passport). And I had my sights set on Liechtenstein’s Prince Wenzeslaus. Not only was he age appropriate at 41, 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. I felt that we were the perfect match but apparently he didn’t receive my emails alerting him to my European escape. I still hold out hope.
MayOne
In June, I took a brief break from overseas travel and relished the chance to catch up on some big writing projects. I interviewed the fabulous Feather from Byron Bay who was the subject of Natalie Grono’s award-winning photo: Feather and the Goddess Pool. Natalie had just received the People’s Choice award for this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize. Feather, in her 70s, invited me to join her for some topless sunbaking and told me:
“I’ve got TMB – Too Many Birthdays. Men who are 80 and 81 look at me and say I’m too old for them. They can’t do anything and they are ratshit and I’m not really interested in being a cougar.”

Photo by Natalie Grono

Photo by Natalie Grono


Fabulous females continued to enter my life in July when I met Brisbane Trike Tour owner Chrissy McDonnell and her black three-wheeler The Bling Queen. On a crisp winter day in which we took a spin down to Canungra in the Gold Coast Hinterland, Chrissy told me how she quit her job at an insurance giant last December to follow her dream of running her own business. We spoke just last week and things are going gang busters.
JulyOne
Up at Noosa in July, another new tourism business operator Kelly Carthy from Luxe Fitness Escapes paddled with me into the mangroves of the Noosa River where we partook in a beautiful floating yoga class to the sounds of the birds.
“I want women 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 told me on this spectacular Sunshine Coast day.
JulyTwo
In August, I held hands with a man for the first time all year out at ReefWorld on the outer Great Barrier Reef. I was participating in a learner’s dive and, as fate would have it, it was just me and a handsome Spaniard for 30 glorious minutes. I was mesmerised by his brown hair which floated in the water like sea weed and spent the entire time dreaming of us having to share the same oxygen hose. But perhaps the most interesting character I met all year was out at the Mount Isa Rodeo in Queensland’s Outback. Here, Beaver, or Brettyln Neal as she is sometimes known, was about to notch up her 150th fight as part of Fred Brophy’s travelling boxing troupe.
“I’ve got a little furry Beaver mascot and sometimes Fred will get up and say ‘show us your Beaver’ and I’ll have it in my pants,” Beaver told me one dusty Outback afternoon. For the record, Beaver you are still my BFF.
AugustTwo
I took a journey to Australia’s spiritual heart of Uluru in September but anguished over how to capture its magic in words. Instead, I relinquished my role as a writer for one entire afternoon, and took a cycling tour of the red rock. It was my first visit to this ancient landmark and instead of clumsily grasping for the toolkit of adjectives and mixed metaphors upon which I usually rely, I emptied my head, opened my heart and clutched the handlebars. The words, well they came later. Shortly after, I found myself in Canada’s Nova Scotia covering a “sausage fest.” Yes, it took one classy sheila from Brisbane to point out to the Canadians that the term meant something entirely different back in the cosmopolitan Queensland capital.
SeptemberTwo
October found me in Sri Lanka and most notably Kandy where I went in search of my Kandy Man. My best chance presented itself at the Kandy Cultural Show where one of the acts included “10 male damsel drummers in harmony”. There was even one fine fella in the show who smiled at me and dropped his tambourine, such was my sex appeal, but our interaction ended there. I also had a Sri Lankan yoga teacher instruct me to rub “special herbal cream” on my face and boobs. Turns out his special cream was actually Vicks Vapor Rub. My boobs still sting at this memorable travel moment.
OctoberOne
I spent early November on the Gold Coast hunting and gathering a series of stories and allowed myself to indulge in childhood beach holiday memories. These messages in a bottle floated up every day…mum on Greenmount Beach tanning her back against a rock, dad driving our gold Kingswood around Kirra bend when he finished work on a Friday afternoon. Cream buns at Coolangatta. Shifting sands. And regular readers will recall it was only last month that I returned from the Solomon Islands, where, still no closer to snaring my solo man, I interviewed the locals about love. Panda, 37, told me Solomon Island men were good lovers because “they like the girls”.
“They love the white skin. There are lots of good boys around. If you come to me I can help you to find a good man. I think you will be the boss and he will do everything for you. He will think ‘I’ve got a white lady’ and he will treat you like a Queen,” Panda told me. Inexplicably, I returned home single.
NovemberOne
It’s now December, and this week I fly out for three weeks in Indonesia, where a girlfriend and me intend to flop and drop on each of the Gili Islands. There will be snorkelling, swimming, yoga, beer and plenty of daydreaming. A huge thank you to all of the tourism bodies, PRs and editors who supported my travels this year, the terrific characters I met along the way and to you, my loyal followers and readers. I wish you all love and light this Christmas and may we all find peace on earth in 2016. See you then. x
DecemberOne

Journey To Japan

CherryBlossom
IT’S a tasty Tuesday of Gorgeous Geisha’s and Konichiwa Kimonos and while I have never seen Mount Fuji, or Japan itself, nor marveled at the famed Rising Sun, there’s plenty of reason to smile. Back in Brisbane briefly between travel assignments, I’ve taken a delicious detour to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC) to preview the menu for The Coffee Club Telethon Ball 2015. It’s a Journey to Japan I’m taking this delightful day, all plated up and easy to digest for this hungry traveller. And the cause is equally as evocative. Staged to raise money to fund vital research into the most devastating childhood cancers, The Coffee Club Telethon Ball is considered to be one of the most vibrant charity balls in Queensland.
Spoons
More than 1200 guests are expected to attend this year’s ball on October 17 at BCEC with this year’s theme inspired by the story of the ancient Japanese Peace Crane. A stunning 17,000 suspended and folded paper cranes will decorate the venue in a bid to bring luck, good fortune and health. And these kids need it. Kids such as a little boy called Connor who at the age of three developed a temperature and started having difficulty walking. Three days later Connor’s parents were told that he had numerous tumours in his abdominal area, pelvis, spine and right knee and he was officially diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. The next day Connor began treatment and has since endured six months of intensive chemotherapy, major surgery, a bone marrow transplant, radiotherapy and six months of immunotherapy. On May 18 this year, after more than a year of treatment, Connor “rang the bell” to signify his last chemotherapy treatment at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.
Champagne
Money raised from the 2014 ball enabled the Children’s Hospital Foundation to continue to fund research to achieve faster diagnoses, better treatments and ultimately cures for the most devastating childhood illnesses.
“Thanks to research, kids are now surviving cancer more than ever before, however, little boys and girls still lose their fight and this event makes sure less lose the fight,” The Coffee Club’s John Lazarou says.
“There’s always more we can do for our sick kids and that’s why we need your help. Kids like Connor and so many more need us, and we need to step up and say to them ‘we are here’. Is there any better call to answer?”
CoffeeClub
BCEC Executive Chef Martin Latter pays homage to Japan in this innovative menu, while giving his trademark nod to local produce such as fresh Queensland crab and prawns. The result: delectable dishes dressed up in creative course names such as The Rising Sun Starter in which guests will be treated to the likes of Tuna Tataki Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing; Octopus Carpaccio with Pickled Daikon; Green Wakame; Fried Eggplant with Miso Sauce; and Vegetable Tempura.
VegetableTempura
The Konichiwa Kimono Entrée consists of Hoisin Glazed Chicken, Water Chestnuts, Bamboo Shoots, Toasted Sesame Caramel Dressing; and Marinated Salmon, King Prawn, Spanner Crab, Avocado Shiso Leaves, Daikon, and Miso Mayonnaise.
Salmon
The Mount Fuji Main promises to be as grand as the famed landmark boasting Grilled Wagyu Beef Fillet, Enoki & Shitake Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Teriyaki Glaze; and Breast of Corn Fed Chicken, Sushi Rice, Fava Beans, Fried Leeks, Fragrant Chicken, Ginger, and Spring Onion Glaze.
MarinatedSalmon
Possibly my favourite course of all, not only because it’s sweet but also due to its description, is the Gorgeous Geisha Dessert of Fruit Sushi: Crepes, Rice Pudding, Mango, Coconut and Strawberries; and Lychee & Honey Mousse, Vanilla Bean Coral Sponge, White Chocolate & Green Tea Crumble, and Almond Milk Jelly.
Dessert
Hosted by Channel 9’s Catriona Rowntree and The Today Show’s Karl Stefanovic, Lisa Wilkinson and Richard Wilkins, the Who’s Who of sport, television and music will grace this event. Consider taking your taste buds on a journey to Japan to help those less fortunate closer to home. To find out more, go to http://www.tcctelethonball.com.au/

BCEC Executive Chef Martin Latter

BCEC Executive Chef Martin Latter