The South has Soul

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THE very first thing I learned when I moved to Brisbane almost 20 years ago is that the city is divided into two tribes. Those who live north of the Brisbane River, and those who live to the south. So distinct is this demarcation you could be talking about the Scottish and the English. Turns out I’m a true northerner through and through and, with some shame, admit that in two decades I’ve never ever stopped to explore the south, rather giving it a cursory glance on my way to the Gold Coast. But this all changed on the weekend when I was given the opportunity to “cross the river”, pause, and reflect on what the south has to offer. And what I discovered was that the south has soul in spades. Just as the human body has 7 chakras, here’s 7 ways you can discover the spirit of the south side.
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1. Back to the bush
Redlands IndiScapes Centre is Australia’s first environmental centre for indigenous plants, and I’m stunned to learn it’s been here for 15 years and I’ve never visited. Which is my great loss, as this 14.5ha site is home to 14 demonstration gardens, more than a kilometre of walking tracks, an environmental information centre and a 600-year-old Tallowwood tree. The good news is that 55,000 visitors a year have discovered this bush beauty which hosts a range of events all designed to acquaint Brisbane residents with native plants. Bush Care Extension Officer Travis Green is passionate about this patch and works with 300 volunteers who plant 20,000 trees in the Redlands region each year. Make sure you stop for a bite in the breezy tea garden café where you can sip on lemon myrtle ice tea while eating native bush tucker.
http://www.indigiscapes.com.au
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2. Red, red wine
Regular readers will know that The Global Goddess is rather partial to a drop of wine, or three, and I am more than happy to support local wine makers, all in the name of story research and robust good health, of course. Sirromet Wines at Mount Cotton is one of Queensland’s stunning success stories, clocking up more than 780 national and international awards. Opened by businessman Terry Morris in 2000, this gorgeous property overlooks southern Moreton Bay and produced 640 tonnes, or 500,000 bottles, of wine last year. A highlight of a visit here is the timber antique wine press which dates back to 1793 and hails from the Austrian Hungarian Empire. Around 3500 people a week flock here to sample the 10 varieties of wine on offer, look longingly at the 3000 wines from around the globe in the Morris family cellar (or that could just be me), and dine in the winery’s signature restaurant Lurleen’s, lovingly named after Terry’s wife.
http://www.sirromet.com
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3. Body and Soul
A relatively new entrant to the south side, Body and Soul Spa Retreat at Mount Cotton uses products derived from Australian wild flowers in its spa treatments among this Aussie bush setting. Visitors are first asked to choose an essential oil based on which smell most resonates with them and which corresponds to either fire, water, earth or air. Retreat owner Gail Keith says the process is about balancing the “whole person” so that “you function in your whole life a lot better”. On this particular day I discover I have a strong water element, described as sensitive, intuitive and creative. And my two-hour treatment ironically includes a Goddess Youth Infusion Facial with collagen and hibiscus flower. A cup of tea brewed from native Australian flowers is offered at the end of the treatment, and my water element and me practically float on to my next appointment, looking 10 years younger, of course.
http://www.bodyandsoulbeauty.com.au
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4. Into the woods
Water dragons skip over the lily ponds playing a salacious game of catch and kiss as I sit (rather enviously I might add) on the deck of my charming cabin among the scribbly gums and iron bark trees at Mt Cotton Retreat and Nature Reserve. While the seclusion is seductive, what I really adore is the fact this property has embraced the environment with both hands. Not only is this retreat certified under the internationally recognised Ecotourism Australia, they have established a 20ha private nature refuge which includes three relatively untouched eco systems and more than 75 bird species. Birds on this property have actually been formally identified and registered in the Australian Bird Atlas and in 2011, this retreat created Boom-Ber-Pee (which means koala in the language of the local Minjerribah people) a private nature reserve which protects endangered regional ecosystems and koala habitat.
http://www.mtcottonretreat.com
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5. Sit with yourself
I’d heard that the south side had a Buddhist temple but I was unprepared for just how big and beautiful the Chung Tian Temple at Priestdale actually is. The hum of Buddhist chants blends with the intoxicating sounds of silence on this 90ha bushland property which opened in 1992. The City of Logan is home to 215 nationalities and this is one heartening example of the multiculturalism this part of Brisbane embraces. A Bodhi tree, grown from a cutting of the original plant under which Buddha is said to have found enlightenment, is on this site which hosts a number of buildings and temples. Guests who give advance notice can participate in an ancient tea ceremony by donation and in which you’ll learn about the 5 different types of tea – green, red, oolong, yellow and white. In this intricate ceremony Tea Maker William Zhao will explain that tea must be drunk slowly. Even better, William believes red wine is a good for you as tea. I knew it.
http://www.chungtian.org.au
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6. There’s a bear in there
Another startling fact about the City of Logan that I learned on the weekend is it is home to more than 900 parks and more than 80 per cent of this city is considered “green”. Which makes it the ideal corridor for wildlife to inhabit. Turns out koalas are also huge supporters of the southside, and a really restful place in which to experience these Aussie icons is at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. Set within the 435ha Daisy Hill Conservation Park, which, by the way, makes an ideal spot for a picnic, a handful of koalas are housed in this environmental and education centre. Now, call me un-Australian, but I’m one of those people who think koalas are a little dull. They sleep for an inordinate number of hours each day, smell a little, are pretty hairy and when they do wake, are pretty scratchy. A little like my ex-husband. But that all changed when I met Harry, the 8kg male, who sprung to life during my visit and struck this sensational pose.
http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au
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7. Food, glorious food
Until now, when I thought of dining on Brisbane’s south side, I thought of the huge proliferation of excellent Chinese restaurants which pay homage to some of the first migrants to the area. But this is a region which is thriving in a number of foodie fields. From The Berry Patch at Chambers Flat to the Global Food Village at Woodridge, the NT Fresh Cucumber Farm and Riverview Herbs, there’s a range of dynamic producers doing some great stuff here. Let’s not forget the Beenleigh Rum Distillery for a bit of liquid gold, Carcamos Gourmet Caramel Apples, Poppy’s Chocolate, and last, but not least, the unusually exotic Greenbank Mushrooms – where oysters and shiitake mushrooms are grown from a log, like potted flowers. I was gifted one of these beauties and can’t wait to see what springs from its soil. Day of the Triffods or dinner on Tuesday, who can tell?
http://www.visitlogan.com.au
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The Global Goddess explored the south side and Brisbane’s back yard as a guest of Brisbane Marketing. To discover the south side’s soul and awaken your seven chakras, go to http://www.visitbrisbane.com.au

Digital Daydreaming

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Cheer up, sleepy jean
Oh, what can it mean
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen (Daydream Believer, The Monkees, 1967)

I HAVE a confession. I am a daydreamer. If I could, I would spend all day in my head, conjuring up salacious stories about the world around me. But in a bid to take a break and get out of my head for a bit over the Christmas period, I embraced Instagram with gusto. Just a few months ago, when I joined Instagram, I had a total of 13 followers, which was pretty remarkable, given I never posted anything. Yes, somewhere out there on the planet there were 13 insanely optimistic people, just waiting with baited breath for me to post something…anything. Quite the enigma was I. But things have changed, I’ve attracted a stack of new followers, and I’m now looking through the world through my eyes as well as my head – and most importantly my heart. And so, I thought I’d share a few images of what I’ve been up to this summer. If you’d like to follow me on Instagram, you’ll find me @aglobalgoddess
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Possibly my favourite pic all summer was of the University of Queensland pool on a hot summer day. Few things excite me more than a cool body of water when the mercury is sky high. I got lucky and the water seemed to dance for me as I snapped this photo, while picking up the shadows on the bottom of the pool, and framed by the lane ropes.
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Someone told me that people like food pics. Personally, I think they can be a bit indulgent. It seems strange to me that a bunch of overweight white people take photos of their food while half the world is starving, but I gave it a shot and received a ravenous response.
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This melting moment presented itself as I was leaving a pub on a hot summer night. I love the way the wax formed these patterns and it seemed to sum up the scorching day.
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From candles to cushions and cars, I fell in love with colour and so have been searching for as much of it as I can find in everyday items.
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I reminded myself to look up, as this photo of the Brisbane Powerhouse on a later summer afternoon attests…
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And look down. I took this sneaky pic of this woman’s feet sitting opposite to me in the hairdresser. And I also experimented with black and white.
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Never forget your own backyard for beauty, as my perfect bunch of frangipani flowers proves.
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And some days, even the subjects will pose for you, as Tilly proved up at Tamborine Mountain.
Which was your favourite pic from my summer collection? What would you like to see more of? I’d love your feedback. And please remember to follow me @aglobalgoddess

Finding Courage and Compassion on the Coast

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IT’S a Wizard of Oz kind of weekend, where I discover courage and compassion in the most unlikely of characters…the Gold Coast. Beneath the naughty neon lights, the throaty hum of the ocean and the throbbing drum of nightclubs for which Surfers Paradise is famous, lays a rip curl of creativity which is building into the mother of all swells.
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My weekend starts with a yoga session in front of Kurrawa Beach, in the park named after swimwear supremo Paula Stafford, whose two-piece bathing costumes put bikinis and the Gold Coast on the global catwalk. I’m in a public park, with my legs in the air, spread wide apart, simultaneously contemplating my form and hoping the swirling seagulls don’t poo on me. It’s a day of downward dogs and inward reflection.
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Our yoga teacher for the morning is Laura Humphreys from Threedom Wellness, who gently urges us to accept the notion that yoga is a balance between courage and compassion. And you can forget about bringing your ego to class.
“Backbends are about the future. Forward bends are about looking inwards. We often don’t like to look inwards, it scares most of us,” she says. Interestingly, Laura has to force my body into a forward bend, which becomes easier with each deep yoga breath. Some days, you’ve just gotta breathe.
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There’s just enough time for a short break at Broadbeach’s eclectic Elm for a dirty chai – a coffee and chai – before the next wave deposits us at Burleigh and Roar Food. Business Partners Darren Jones and Suki Kasinathan are passionate about sustainable eating, and in two hours will teach you how to prepare 10 raw food recipes. It’s here I learn that cauliflower is “sensitive” – the kind of vege you might avoid if you were dating it, but a perfect substitute for couscous. Want a new twist on pasta? Why not try zucchini spirals? Or a raw food apple pie – cheeky crusts need not apply.
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“Each of your vegetables has a personality. When you are eating raw you really connect to the food. Each individual apple will have a different sweetness,” Suki says.
“For me it is a journey and I don’t know where it is going to end but it feels really good.”
The plates you eat on during this class are made from a bi-product of sugar cane, as are the forks and even the recipes are printed on ethical paper made from wheat and soy rice.
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The current sweeps me to Budd’s Beach and onto a kayaking journey with Steve Vah from Australian Kayaking Adventures where we cut through the water with our paddles and through the bullshit of life with talk of love and passion. Steve is married to a Colombian and he knows a thing of two about fiery females with big hearts. Our journey along the Gold Coast canal takes us past Bar Helm Bistro @Surfers, where later that night I’ll indulge in Helm’s Smoking Texas Mary cocktail take on a Bloody Mary and reluctantly concede that my friends made a wise choice in the Parmesan Crusted Snapper Fillet with lemon butter.
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I’m on the Gold Coast for Australia’s premier blogging training event – ProBlogger – and it’s here that courage and compassion raise their handsome heads again. In his opening address, ProBlogger architect Darren Rows proffers an insight into facing your fears.
“Fear is a signal that something important is about to happen. It’s a good thing. Ask yourself – what’s the worst thing that can happen, how would you recover if it happened, and what’s the best thing that could happen? The reality is somewhere in between,” he says.
“Even wobbly courage is courage. Figure out what the fear actually is. Don’t play the comparison game, comparisons are not fair. People show the best of what they do, where you know everything about yourself, even the bad stuff.
“Compare yourself to yourself. You are unique. Use that to your competitive advantage. No one has your story.”
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Guest speaker Trey Ratclif, a photographer who is blind in one eye, is 42 and only picked up a camera 7 years ago. His self-taught imagery is legendry around the world. The kind of excellent work that attracts jealous detractors.
“It is arguably better to have a weird brain than a normal brain. People on the edge of the bell curve do interesting things with their lives. Let the rocks people throw at you just fall,” he says.
“There’s a few people out there who are evil and feed a white core of hate inside of me. I fight back with awesome.
“A blog is probably the greatest self-discovery tool of our age. You find out new things and truths within yourself. When you are telling your stories you are living in the now.”
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Actor Samuel Johnson, who is riding around Australia on a unicycle to raise money for breast cancer research in honour of his sister Connie who is battling the disease, makes a surprise guest appearance at the conference. You need courage and compassion to make an epic journey around a monster-sized country like ours. And a heart of gold. And that’s where the crux of this story on courage and compassion lies for me. As a blogger, I think you must write with heart, humour or humility. Like you should live your life. And, if you’re really lucky, you might find all three.
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The Global Goddess explored The Gold Coast as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland. For more information on a Gold Coast holiday go to http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au.

For more information on how to become an awesome blogger, or next year’s ProBlogger event, go to http://www.problogger.net or http://www.twitter.com/problogger

To donate to Samuel Johnson’s ride for breast cancer, please go to http://www.loveyoursister.org
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Snapshots of Samoa

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My Samoa glow-a has all but faded, but my happy memories of my recent trip, and the amazing people I met, remain. Some places leave an indelible inprint on you. This South Pacific paradise was one of them. Please enjoy my Snapshots of Samoa. Talofa!
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Apia, the Samoan capital, is a city with a sense of humour as these colourful buses, demonstrate. Yep, the big, burly locals ride these, all around the island.
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The fish is so fresh here, it jumps straight out of the ocean, and on to your dinner plate.
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Next time I return to Coconuts Resort, I want to spend a night in one of these overwater bungalows.
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And several nights in one of those Fales at Lalomanu Beach.
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And meet more of the country’s beautiful children.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Samoa as a guest of the Samoan Tourism Authority. For more information on a Samoan holiday go to http://www.samoa.travel. Virgin Australia flys direct to Samoa from Brisbane once a week and several times from Sydney.
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