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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
FOR one week every year, one magical week between Christmas and New Year, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland behind the tiny township of Woodford, exists the People’s Republic of Woodford. The Woodford Festival. If you’re looking for an antidote to a frenetic year, a chance to recharge your batteries, to find a destination that for one week only represents the way the world should be, head to “Woodfordia” where reality is suspended, if only for the briefest of times.
On this beautiful 200 hectare environmental parkland, which has withstood the scourge of floods and scorching summers, people are nicer to each other, they dance, laugh and sing. Talk to complete strangers. Engage in debates about the universe, global warming, coal seam gas, fracking, and euthanasia. Dance under huge tents, play the bongos, dine on exotic cuisine, strum guitars, learn how to paint, draw and craft things. They hug trees, hug each other. Trek to the top of the hill and honour the last sunset of the year and the first sunrise of the next. Sit under the Southern Cross and in a huge bush ampitheatre indulge in that unmistakable Australian sound emanating from new bands. Discover foreign groups. Honour the Indigenous custodians of the land in Jinibara Country on which they sit. Chat around the campsite.
If the Woodford Folk Festival isn’t Utopia, then it’s about as close to Nirvana as you will find. What other place on the planet do you line up to fill your recycled bottle with rainwater to discover the person in front has already paid for it? This is a destination where paying it forward looms large. Egos are suspended. Bonhomie reigns. The Global Goddess has been attending Woodford for about a decade, at first apprehensive that it was a bit of a hippie festival with which she would have no connection. Back in the early days I didn’t camp but drove home to Brisbane every night to the comfort of a warm shower and a soft bed. As the years wore on, I started out in a basic tent pitched in the campsite of my friends. I slept like the dead, to the sounds of distant beating drums. I awoke each morning to the cacophony of the Aussie bush.
These days, we’ve upgraded, our site becoming more sophisticated as we sleep in a campervan, our friends in a Kombi, a tarp strung between the two, mapping out our home for the week. There’s Moet in the esky and aged cheese and strawberries in the fridge. We eat fancy pancakes for breakfast. Brew real coffee. And sit down and pour over the program and plan the day ahead. This year’s program, just released late last week, promises to be a corker. Highlights of this year’s festival include singers Beth Orton, Tim Finn and Clare Bowditch; Environmentalist Professor Ian Lowe; former politician Bob Hawke and, yet-to-be-confirmed Malcolm Turnbull; comedian Denise Scott; writer Blanch D’Alpuget.
And there’s some acts always worth revisiting among the diverse performance venues on the site. The Global Goddess likes to spend her time in the Blue Lotus tent listening to talks on spirituality. Sometimes I sit on the hill and watch stunning Spaniards introduce me to fast and frenetic music with a tinge of Hawaii Five’O. Other days, it’s in Bills Bar you’ll find me, people watching as much as music listening, having a cold beer before heading down the hill to the Blues Tent. A couple of belly laughs in the Comedy Tent is also a nice way to end the evening and as I stumble back to camp to the glow of paper lanterns, I’m likely to stop several times, for a tea and a carob ball in the Chai Tent, a cold drink in the Pineapple Lounge, a bit of jazz, a circus act, some Indian or Tibetan music along the way.
Last year’s festival saw 2,200 artists and musicians perform across 25 venues to an audience of 113,000 people over that wonderful week. A steady program of tree planting over the years, in which attendees can “adopt” a tree, has resulted in the 101,000th tree planted in Woodfordia soil this year. Some years there’s dust. Others, it rains and there’s mud. Bring your gum boots. Embrace nature and creativity. Random acts of music. Robust acts of kindness. That’s my idea of Utopia. What’s yours?
For more information on the Woodford Festival please visit http://www.woodfordfolkfestival.com
PAVAROTTI was in the Opera Suite, a Peugeot was parked in the lobby, there was a bottle of Moet behind every door, and if I didn’t know any better, I had stepped straight into a game of Cluedo. (Meet me on the Club Floor with the candelabra). If indeed this was Cluedo, it wasn’t a bad way to start, as normally, when it comes to the end of the working week, I’m pretty clueless. Sure, there’s always a cask of Chateau Cardboard (I’ll have a flagon of your finest red under $10, thanks) but no Italian operatic tenors hiding behind my bedroom door.
It’s a French Friday, but Paris this is not. Rather Brisbane, or the Sofitel Brisbane, to be exact. And thus begins my sultry Staycation, where I have precisely 17 hours to indulge in an affair to remember with my own city. And where better to begin than smack bang in the heart, above Central Station?
Don’t get me wrong. Normally I kick off a Friday night full of optimism. What’s not to love about the thought of no work for two whole days and the possibility of meeting a passionate paramour? I’m reminded of this by a piece of art in the Sofitel lobby art gallery. Yes, I too, start every Friday night feeling like a Foo Fighter.
I begin my journey with a short tour of the hotel which has undertaken a major refurbishment since last July. There are now six different room types, aimed at “infusing French elegance with local Brisbane culture”. The décor is fresh and sophisticated and is designed to provide a sense of coming home to your Parisian apartment. Even the colour of the carpet is a little ooh, la, la – it’s not just blue, it’s peacock blue, or was that green? I can’t really remember, as I said earlier, there was someone behind every door, with a bottle of something French and fizzy.
Up on the Club Floor (with the candelabra, remember?), the art-décor elegance continues, as do the unforgettable views of the city. If you want to feel a little French and smug, this is the place to sit and watch all the harangued office workers – of which you are normally one – rush to catch their trains home at the end of the working day.
Back on the ground floor, at the gracious Prive249 restaurant, the French flair continues with an Amuse Bouche of Poached Prawn with Herbed Aioli and Apple; Spanner Crab with Celeriac and Rhubarb Textures Entrée; Vanilla Confit Duck with Petit Pois a la Francasie Main; and Chocolate, Mint and Tonka Bean Cream Dessert.
After dinner my thoughts turn back to the Opera Suite, but not of the terrific tenor (I’m not sure about a man who returns from the dead), but of a photograph I took while I was there. Blame the bubbly if you must, but it looks like a couple enjoying the nocturnal activity for which the French are most famous.
I retreat to my room where I’d love to report that my affair to remember ended with a naughty nightcap, but the thought of curling up on my own in the Sofitel’s famed MyBed’s – all soft and squishy like you’ve been swallowed by a giant marshmallow – was enough for me. Frankly, that bed could have been packed with the North Queensland Cowboys, who I was reliably informed were staying on Floors 17, 25 and 26, and I wouldn’t have noticed.
And so, my sultry Staycation came to an end. This morning, predictably after so much Moet, I looked more like this creature I also found on the walls of the Sofitel’s lobby art gallery. Never let it be said that I don’t suffer for my art.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the Sofitel Brisbane. To create your own affair to remember go to http://www.sofitel.com/Brisbane