IT’S a wonderful warm day and I am ambling along La Rambla, Barcelona’s beautiful and bustling pedestrian street, before pulling up a perch for a sultry Sangria and some prime people-watching. I sashay on, in Spanish style, arriving at a teeming Tapas bar, all colour and life on this glorious day with customers politely pointing and seemingly shouting for these tasty treats. Dinner and a show? You had me at rioja. I have arrived in Spain’s sexiest city earlier this morning, having flown in fashion aboard Singapore Airlines’ new A350-900 aircraft from Brisbane, via Singapore, with a brief touch down in Milan, before my final destination…Barcelona. And I immediately fall in love.
This jaunty journey for me begins before I even leave the ground in Brisbane. Last September, Singapore Airlines turned the heat up on the competitive airline food market, launching its Book the Cook service from Brisbane for its Business and Premium Economy Class customers. And I have done just that, booked the cook, a few days prior to flying pre-ordering a main meal from a selection of options with creations inspired by the Airline’s International Culinary Panel of Chefs, including Matt Moran. I had the privilege of taste-testing these delicious dishes on the ground last year, but I had never tried them at 30,000 feet. According to experts, you lose 30 per cent of your ability to taste at altitude, so would the dish I chose stack up?
But before I board, I am ushered into Brisbane’s SilverKris Lounge, a place I last passed the Duchess of Cornwell, Camilla, who was in town earlier this year for the Commonwealth Games with Prince Charles. Camilla, bless her, took one look at me and sighed, just as it occurred to me from where I knew this familiar face flanked by police. I may not be a blue blood, but I am treated like royalty in the lounge, with staff remembering me from previous visits, enthusiastically encouraging me to try “every dish on the menu”. “But I’ve Booked the Cook onboard,” I plead. I defer and munch my way through the lounge’s Asian-inspired delights including delicious dim sum and some Aussie treats with a twist as well such as mac and cheese infused with truffles.
Sated, I take my Business Class seat on Singapore Airlines’ new A350-900ULR aircraft, bound for Singapore. Singapore Airlines is the launch customer of these beautiful birds, taking delivery in late-September. In October this year, Singapore Airlines used this aircraft to launch the world’s longest commercial flight between Singapore and New York, covering 16,7000km with a travel time of 18hours and 45 minutes. By comparison, I have around 8 hours on which to sip creamy Charles Heidsieck champagne, before ordering a full-bodied 2015 Bordeaux to accompany my lunch. I’ve pre-booked the lamb and it’s as plump and juicy as I remember trying on the ground. In fact, I could be at a five-star restaurant. The other great thing about the Singapore Airlines’ afternoon flight from Brisbane is that it’s a meal, movie, a nap and snack before you are touching down at Changi Airport. On board, the Business Class service is so impeccable, the crew fold and tidy your bedding whenever you rise to stretch your legs, meaning you come back to a fully-made flat-bed every time, something I’ve never experienced on any other airline.
In Changi, I am ushered to the First Class Lounge and it is a first-class affair with a swanky bar where the bar man mixes your drinks and delivers them to you, and food is cooked to order, before again, being served to your seat. On this connection to Europe, there’s time for a shower with pristine facilities and thoughtful toiletries you’ll need for the next leg, before boarding, just before midnight, to Barcelona (via Milan). On the second leg I’m in Premium Economy which is a great, affordable alternative with the same service and meal offerings you receive in Business Class. Here, the seats remind me of the first-generation Business Class seats favoured by airlines before flat-bed became the norm. The only quirk in this entire journey was the refreshment served between Milan and Barcelona which fell short of Singapore’s impeccable meals, with my tuna, mayo and lettuce sandwich tasting less like tuna and more like mayo and lettuce. The young Aussie girl in the seat beside me, who raves about Singapore Airlines’ Premium Economy because of her long legs, says the same about her vegetarian roll, which is simply some soggy eggplant plonked onto bread. I note on the sandwich packet that it’s an Italian caterer, and may be something for Singapore Airlines to review, given this airline is excellent in every other way. I arrive in Barcelona early in the morning, and am ready to amble along La Rambla with a Singapore spring in my step following my flights.
My journey home, from Munich to Brisbane, via Singapore, is in Economy Class and is again, effortless. One of the reasons I personally book Singapore Airlines is that even in Economy Class, you are still granted that Singapore smile and service. There’s refreshing hot towels, speedy service, and on both of these legs, Singapore has taken the trouble to ensure every Economy Class passenger has a spare seat between them. This is something I’ve never seen any other airline do, preferring to let guests battle it out for space in the air. It’s little wonder this airline continues to win awards. In February in London, Singapore Airlines was awarded three top awards at Cellars in the Sky including the coveted Gold Medal for Best Overall Cellar. In April, it was crowned Best Airline in the World in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. And in July, it was named the World’s Best Airline in Skytrax’s World Airline Awards. And it’s easy to see why. Any airline can fluke good service once or twice, but you cannot fake that consistently supreme service offered by Singapore Airlines, regardless of which class you choose to fly. Consider booking your next trip with Singapore Airlines and treat yourself to an upgrade, particularly if flying long-haul. You, too, will disembark with that trademark Singapore smile.
The Global Goddess experienced the Novelties of Northern Spain Tour as a guest of Collette Vacations https://www.gocollette.com/en and flew to Spain with Singapore Airlines as a guest in their Business and Premium Economy cabins http://www.singaporeair.com/home.form
IN this land of lore and legend, of caves, coconuts and conch shells, kava, chiefs and tradition carved deep, they have become the unlikely faces of Fiji’s feminist movement. They probably don’t even call themselves feminists, western labels as unnecessary in paradise as a three-piece suit. But these are the women who are carving a new path. These are the strong, smart women of the South Pacific.
This story begins with Una Murray, the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji’s Public Relations Manager of 32 years, who died late last month. If you love a good legend, you’ll adore the tale of Una, who was 70 but told everyone she was 60. Why? Well, Una liked a party as much as she loved rugby and could be found in the resort’s Vakavanua Lounge seven nights a week, often till 1am. We’re sitting in the very same bar, which has introduced the Una Boogie Boogie cocktail in her honour, discussing her life and death.
Executive Assistant Manager Lindsey Palmer says Una knew “everyone” on the island from the Attorney General to Fiji’s International Rugby team who would drop in and find her in a spot in the bar.
“She used to hang out here. We used to have to kick her out. She’d just sit here with a glass of red wine and relax. She was spoilt rotten and she would spoil us,” he says.
So revered was Una, that during her illness the resort supplied their own nurse to her Sigatoka Hospital room, sent down their maintenance team to fix up her room, and brought her breakfast, lunch and dinner, and much-needed morphine. When she died on May 22, the Outrigger negotiated her beachside burial with two separate chiefs, offering copious kava, a suckling pig and gifts to ensure Una’s passage on her next journey.
Want more feisty females? Well, the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji Communications Manager Talei Tora also happens to be the first Fijian woman to be trained by the Australian military in Duntroon. She was forced to quit the army due to a leg injury but as she says “I’ve done my bit for my country, now I can have fun.”
Fun includes promoting some of the resort’s other fabulous females, such as Sous Chef Priya Darshani, who you’ll find in the upmarket Ivi Restaurant. In 2012 Priya was named Fiji Chef of the Year and won third place in the Global Chef’s Challenge in Perth. Priya was also named the resort’s Manager of the Year; and she and her team won best team among all of the Outrigger properties world wide. Which is all pretty remarkable given she started as a trainee chef straight out of school at the resort in 2005 and had never seen a hotel before.
“2012 was a good year,” Priya says simply.
These days when she’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find her hosting a cooking class with the resort’s Executive Chef Shailesh Naidu, who also happens to be the country’s most awarded Fijian-born chef. Shailesh, who is an Indian-Fijian man, says while coconuts are one of the crucial elements of Fijian cooking, chilli also plays an important role.
“Never joke about chillis with the locals, particularly the Indo-Fijians. Even if we are having a breakfast omelette, we have spoonfuls of chilli,” Shailesh says.
“We tell people to put some love into the plate.”
Love. Lore. Legend. All part of this land. Just like the fabulous females who form the fabric of Fiji.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji
Outrigger on the Lagoon_Fiji http://www.outriggerfiji.com; Bebe Spa Sanctuary http://www.bebespafiji.com; Off Road Cave Safari http://www.offroadfiji.com; Coral Coast Tourism http://www.coralcoastfiji.org; and Kula Ecopark Fiji http://www.fijiwild.com
IN a bid to challenge my consumption on both an environmental and health level, yesterday I partook in my first food fast. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. She’s clawing her way one step closer to becoming a miu miu wearing hippy. While this may be my ultimate goal in life, I really did want to see how my body and mind would react to limiting my food intake to that of a child.
I was inspired to do this by a story in The Weekend Australian which talks about a new program known as intermittent fasting (IF). Under this plan, on two alternate days a week you essentially limit your daily intake to 2720 kilojoules for women (a little more for men), allowing your body to restore and recover.
While it’s still in its infancy, the “diet” is receiving rave reviews for its ability to reduce the chances of things like cancer, as it works on the premise that while we are always burning food fuel, our bodies don’t have time to actually repair. Followers also report losing at least 1kg a week.
So, was it all just a bit kooky like the time my sister and I invested our entire summer spending money in a bottle of Ebony tanning lotion, under the premise we would turn into Whitney Houston? Or did I actually realise some results? Let me also add, I am not someone who normally take photos of her food. Unless you are a food writer or chef, I find it intriguing when a bunch of white, wealthy people in the western world document everything they eat. (During this fast, you will notice how much everyone talks about food on Facebook. Stay off Facebook. One friend even posted a photo of a keyring that looked like a macaron).
I start the morning with the recommended breakfast: one boiled egg and a cup of black coffee. For someone who heaps two teaspoons of sugar and some milk into her daily Cup of Joe, this was a challenge. I tried to concentrate on the sensation of the coffee. Silky and black and a vessel to wake me up in the morning. A bit like my ideal man. Although I also like my ideal man to be sweet. I take my time and savour the egg, which is delicious, although I just wish there was more of it. Why, God, why, did I choose a normal chook egg and not that of an emu? Meanwhile, I reminisce about the missing piece of toast like a long-lost lover.
By mid-morning I am not only feeling light-headed, but I am also having evil, hateful thoughts towards my parents. My low blood sugar is causing me to recall every horrible thing they’ve ever done (or not done) and is playing out like a horror movie in my head. Thankfully, I’ve been to meditation class the night before, and am practising to just “observe” the Freddy Kruger in my head.
Lunch. At last. I’ve spent the past 4.5 hours since my egg glancing at the clock, counting down like a child would to Christmas. Lunch is a bowl of vegetable soup. Who knew carrots, corn and chickpeas could be a whole world of fun?
The thing that concerns me is my afternoon swim. How on earth am I going to swim 1km on a stomach devoid of carbs? Secondly, if anyone else attempts to share my lane, I’m in such a scratchy mood, I think I might drown them, myself, or both of us. I panic a little. There’s nothing in the story about exercise. Am I meant to do it at all?
By mid-afternoon, I think I could eat one of the small children I spied at the pool but I’m lucid enough to realise this could result in me losing my Blue Card. I feel like Victoria Beckham – hungry and cranky. I decide to make a cup of Peppermint tea.
Dinner is a veritable feast of 10 cherry tomatoes, half a sliced eggplant (I cheat and buy the biggest I can find), 1 zucchini, 1 red capsicum and half a red onion scattered with basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of olive oil and roasted. I think I might burst with glee when I read the recipe also allows for 1 tablespoon of parmesan. I pretend the eggplant is a steak and my sparkling mineral water is a G&T.
I go to bed slightly earlier, and hungrier than normal. I realise all I’ve thought about all day is food (which is a nice change from men). Funny about what you obsess, when you can no longer have it. But I’ve done it! While I wouldn’t rush to do it again, I have learned something new about food and my attitude towards it. In a world where so many are starving, it’s nice to be reminded of our abundance.
The Global Goddess’ verdict: Unlike total fasts, which I believe are not practical and possibly send your body into “starvation mode” when next you eat, the restricted calorie intake fast has merit. I could see it working after a big holiday or festive season in which you’ve over-indulged. Possibly, and this is the hard bit, if we restricted our calories a little every day, we wouldn’t have to resort to two days of fasting. What really appealed to me was that it made me value every morsel and think about the food I consumed. To donate to Foodbank Australia – whose mantra is “an Australia without hunger” – go to www.foodbank.com.au