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.
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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).
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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.

The Art of Travel

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“The sole cause of a man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room, Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
IT’S almost mid-June and my itchy traveller’s feet are already becoming tetchy, niggling to get back on that road, so soon after I’ve just stepped off the beaten track. After a big six months of travel, I’m taking a brief pause to recalibrate, but it’s not a simple task for me. My body says stop, but my mind roars like those four Rolls Royce engines upon take-off, constantly conjuring up all the possibilities out there in the big, wide world awaiting me. But it’s important to stop, however briefly, if nothing else but to breathe. To indulge in that most sinful of sins, sleeping in one’s own bed.
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I started the year with a few domestic trips, out west to Ipswich where I rode in a helicopter to a winery and took my first hot air balloon flight – both of which were pretty big deals for this travel writer who hates to fly. I explored Brisbane’s southside and discovered a Buddhist temple and a whole new side of my pretty city I never knew existed. As Alain de Botton argues in his book The Art of Travel you don’t even need to leave your own home to travel. Much of it is a state of mind.
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Things became a little crazy in March with a big trip up to Papua New Guinea but what a delightful visit to this South Pacific frontier it was. I came home with armloads of stories and some beautiful new friends. I was home for three days, enough time to wash, dry and repack my clothes, before I headed off to Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, all in the space of a week. I was sick as a dog on that trip, but sometimes you don’t get a choice to slow down, and it’s amazing what you can do when you really need to.
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A long weekend in Noosa, part work, part pleasure followed and I started to dream of the following weekend when I’d be back on the Sunshine Coast for Easter with my sister. But fate had other plans and torrential rain forced the cancellation of our Easter holiday on the Sunshine Coast, but determined to get away, we fled to Fiji instead, where one of our best Easters unfurled among coconut cocktails and South Pacific church services.
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Shortly after that, I was in Cairns and Port Douglas, exploring the beautiful tropical north of my state. I hired a car for this trip, switched the radio to some superb 80s tunes, and sang my way along the Captain Cook Highway north. There was a moment of truth when, all alone on a remote beach eating my lunch I though “I’m all alone” with a tinge of fear and sadness. But that was rapidly replaced by jubilation: “I’m ALL alone,” and I skipped back to my rainforest cottage with pure glee.
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As fate would have it, I returned to Port Douglas a week or so later for another story. Funny how you don’t go somewhere for 15 years, and then you return to that very destination within a short time frame. I wonder what Alain de Botton would make of that? It was a completely different trip which evoked vastly different feelings, proving it’s the journey, not the destination, which makes the place. As de Botton would say: “Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains.”
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I was on the Sunshine Coast a week later, at Rainbow Beach, a place I’d never been, scratching my head as to how I’d missed such a Queensland gem. I spent the night camping at Inskip Point right on the beach while the wind howled outside, and trying to imagine that a week later I’d be in Austria, covering Eurovision. I arrived in Vienna, a city I last visited 20 years before as a backpacker, and hardly recognised the place. It made me realise that while I was fitter two decades ago, I was also very young and, according to de Botton: “A danger of travel is that we see things at the wrong time, before we have had a chance to build up the necessary receptivity and when new information is therefore as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chain.” And so it was on my previous trip to the Austrian capital, but not so on this journey. I returned to Salzburg where seven years previously I had gone in search of the Sound of Music magic. I found it again on this trip, and more.
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On the long journey home from Europe to Australia, I paused for 10 hours in Bangkok, one of my all-time favourite destinations. Due to the length of my layover I had just enough time to leave the airport, find a hotel, have a Thai massage and sit by the pool in the early evening humidity to eat a Thai curry washed down with a cold Singha. And even then, I found it alluring, tempting myself to stay on, trying to find a loophole to avoid getting on that midnight flight to Brisbane.
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I’ve been home two weeks tomorrow and if I’m really honest, it took me about four days till I was climbing the walls. But it’s a necessary climbing journey. I need to write, reset, catch up with friends, go to yoga, attend meditation and, if I’m lucky, go on a date or two. It’s winter Down Under and it’s time to pause and reflect, if just for a little bit. Oh, the trips are already mounting in the coming months, there’s Noosa, the Whitsundays and Mount Isa, followed by Uluru and Canada. I hope to get to Sri Lanka. And that’s just what I know now. And so I sit, write and regroup, but it’s not without its challenges. As de Botton wrote: “And I wondered, with mounting anxiety, What am I supposed to do here? What am I supposed to think?”
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The Goddess’ Briefs: Travel & Lifestyle tips for strong, smart, sexy and spiritual women (and the great men who love us!)

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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
XANA-Carnival Flyer
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
Pavlova Martini[1]
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
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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
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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
Flower Petal