I POSSESS the dubious fortune of being born under a lucky star and by dubious, I mean weird stuff happens to me all the time. By fortune, I mean that I have not only managed to find a way to laugh at most of this whacky business, but I somehow make a living out of it. Unlike one of my sisters, who is a nurse, when things go wrong in her profession, she can kill someone. When things go wrong for me, people pay me to write about it.
And so I am delighted to announce that I am now a regular columnist for Jetstar’s inflight magazine! Yes, you will find me, on the back page, or Row 57 (as we like to call it in the airline business…yes, I like to think I’m a pilot now too), telling more tawdry travel tales among a small stable of regular writers. Trying to be entertaining in 400 words is as challenging as watching those people who pack too much hand luggage, attempting to shove it into the overhead lockers. (Learn to pack properly, people). Please enjoy my debut column, out now on all Jetstar flights.
TALES FROM ROW 57*
WHEN TRAVEL RHYMES WITH UNRAVEL
For some who journey, it’s a jungle out there, as Christine Retschlag knows all too well
I AM WRITING this having just “showered”, crouched under the tiny faucet of the bath tap in my Cairns hotel room. I would have preferred to stand under a gushing flood of water like normal people, but not for the first time in my travels have I been unable to work out how the shower nozzle actually works. We’ve all got that one friend for whom the world is a big, scary place where inexplicably weird things happen while on holiday. I am that friend.
I once took my sister on a “relaxing” holiday to Queenstown, and I distinctly recall her scoffing as I grabbed two bottles of Duty Free Whisky as we dashed to the plane. Fast forward to the next four days among which included two of our tour vehicle’s four wheels precariously spinning over a cliff ledge; me being carried down a mountain in a white-out by not one, but two sherpas, and on our last day, at a seemingly sedate farm visit, a ram breaking free from the pack and charging straight at us. Drink? We were opening those whisky bottles for breakfast by the end of that trip.
Once, on a work trip to Phuket, I accidentally stole the room maid’s shoes, believing they were the hotel slippers. It was only at dinner that night, having pranced around the resort in those slightly worn orange wedges, did it become apparent that my colleagues had not been “gifted” the same footwear. From Cambodia to Coolangatta to the Cook Islands and everywhere in between, I’ve left similar stories of destination destruction.
Back in Australia, I recently tried to furiously open my Noosa hotel room, only to eventually realise I was on the wrong floor. This wouldn’t have been so bad had there not been a group of frightened tourists inside, staring through the peep hole at a complete maniac slapping at their door.
I am yet, unlike one friend who possesses similar dumb luck, to lock myself out of my hotel room, stark naked. In his case, he stole The Australian newspaper conveniently outside another guest’s room, and used it to cover his vitals while he sheepishly approached reception for a spare key.
I’m sure that day is coming and when it does, I intend to take this copy of Jetstar Magazine with me, and hope this tawdry travel tale adequately covers all of my sins.
*Row 57 is the last row of seating on Jetstar’s 787 aircraft. To book a Jetstar flight or holiday go to http://www.jetstar.com
THERE are seven men to every woman in Christchurch. A salacious fact onto which I clutched as tightly as my passport as I flew across the Tasman at the weekend. Six years ago, I saw my first ever fortune teller who emphatically predicted that not only would I meet a man who was either younger than me or young at heart, but I would meet him in New Zealand. At the time I was ecstatic, given I was flying to Queenstown that very weekend, convinced my luck was about to change. It was my first trip across the ditch and it was incredible, but all I managed to do was meet a male editor who, like me, was stuck all alone in a luxurious alpine lodge with a bunch of honeymooners. We overcame this awkward fact by pretending we were newlyweds who didn’t spend any time together except over dinner at night, which confused the smug, happy couples, and is a story about which we still laugh to this day.
A year or so later I won another trip to Queenstown, a jaunty journey on which I invited my sister and about which I have previously blogged the perils that awaited us at our destination. We escaped white outs, igloos, icy mountains, a narcoleptic and a randy ram just by the skin of our teeth and with the assistance of copious amounts of whiskey. The only bloke I met on that trip was on the flight home and whom I wrongly accused of sitting in my seat, which made for some rather awkward hours back to Australia. I returned to New Zealand a year or two later, this time to attend a conference in Rotorua, where I vowed I could never marry a man who smelled strongly of sulphur.
But last weekend I went back, lured by a girl’s weekend and the firm fact that there are now seven men to every woman in Christchurch, the odds surely on my side. I should explain this mathematical impossibility by letting you know that the reason there are so many men in town these days is that they are rebuilding this pretty city after the devastating earthquake of February 2011, in which 187 people were killed, 1000 buildings destroyed, and about more of which I will write later.
As per usual, my story begins before I even board the plane when a 60-something man at Sydney International Airport leans him arm against my body, before jumping in surprise and exclaiming: “Oh, I’m sorry, you looked like a table.” Now, I know my universal sex appeal holds no bounds, but even for me, this was a new low. A piece of furniture? A table wearing a leopard-print scarf, clasping an orange handbag and drinking a glass of red wine? Things have leapt off to their usual sterling start.
The clock is pointing glaringly past 1am when I arrive in Christchurch with my four new female friends and when we attempt to check in, the receptionist asks whether we are “here for the wedding?”. “Well, I am looking for a husband”, I reply, before scuttling away to my room. Half an hour later, there’s a knock on my door, and just as I’m mentally praising the hotel for their prompt delivery of the man of my dreams, I open the door to find the receptionist who has decided that since one of asked for a toothbrush kit, all of us must have forgotten our toothbrushes. I ponder this logic into the wee small hours of the morning.
Breakfast is at C1 Espresso café with owner Sam Crofskey, 37, who not only lost his original café across the road in the quake, but his house as well. Sam was working in his high street café when the earthquake hit.
“I was a little bit confused. The coffee grinders fell off and landed on my legs and the power went off and then I could hardly stand,” he says.
“We needed to get rid of the customers, the staff and then ourselves. We had more than 100 people in the café at the time.
“Out on the street everyone was distraught and I thought everyone was over-reacting. I thought we’d come back tomorrow and clean everything up. It took a lot more for me to understand the city was actually gone. When you are here with no power or phone you have no idea what’s going on.
“I was like, my business if fucked, my house is fucked…that’s annoying.”
Sam moved C1 across the road to the old post office – the first reinforced concrete building built in Christchurch – and reopened in November 2012.
These days, the café retains the old post office vault – now used for a coffee machine; sparkling water is poured from a dentist tap; a sliding bookcase leads to the toilet; and burgers are delivered to patrons via tubes which run from the kitchen to tables.
And on the rooftop there’s a vineyard and beehives with plans to build an eight-room boutique hotel here in the near future.
“We wanted to rebuild it as a legacy. There are lots of really cool things in Christchurch. We opened the doors and people flooded in. They really wanted to connect with the central city,” Sam says.
“Christchurch was a broken city before the earthquake full of old, white people. It had no young people. But now people are doing cool stuff and are proud to be here.
“The lights are on and people are home now. The old rules are gone.”
It’s at this early point in my trip that the story I thought I would write about Christchurch starts to change. We head over to the CTV site where 115 people – the majority of victims – were killed in the earthquake. There’s nothing there now but a simple plaque, dedicated to the dead. In the background, there’s a colourful mural of a naked woman from the Calendar Girl’s Strip Club, one of the first buildings to reopen, and presumably going great guns with so many labourers from around the world in town.
Across the road from the CTV site sits the Cardboard Cathedral, constructed from, among things, 96 gigantic cardboard tubes, as a gathering place for the devastated community. But one of the most touching sites in Christchurch sits just across from the cathedral – 187 white chairs to commemorate every person who died in the earthquake. Visitors are invited to spend time there, reflect and even sit on a chair with the simple words: “choose one that speaks to you.”
In the badly affected Anglican Cathedral, locals say when the quake hit, a statue of the Virgin Mary spun around and faced towards Christchurch. Outside here, there’s a pile of “sorry stones” on which visitors have penned their condolences. Colourful Buddhist prayer flags flap in the breeze nearby.
But there’s also hope among the rubble. In the aptly-named Re:START sector, businesses are blossoming out of shipping containers. New Zealand fashion designers are peddling their wares alongside cafes and craft stores. In New Regent Street entrepreneurs such as Rekindle are turning waste wood from demolished homes into edgy jewellery, art and furniture.
Just out of town, other businesses, such as The Tannery Boutique Retail and Arts Emporium are finding previously hard-to-secure council approval for businesses is much easier these days, as the city rebuilds. There’s even a Ministry of Awesome in Christchurch these days, where some of the city’s creatives gather to discuss ways to recreate devastated areas.
It’s a city of gap fillers and anchor projects. Colourful graffiti art adorns massive walls, impromptu gardens are planted everywhere and street installations are a delightful discovery around every corner. The town clock, which stopped at 12.50pm – the precise moment the earthquake hit – still stands in the town.
As for the men, to be honest, I’m so enraptured by this city’s story of resilience and resurrection, I forget to look. The earth moved for me in Christchurch, just not in the way I expected.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism. To book your own escape, go to http://www.christchurchnz.com
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
If The Global Goddess was getting married, she’d be more than a little excited about this package being offered by The Rees Hotel Queenstown in New Zealand. This luxury hotel is now offering exclusive Heli-Wedding packages in conjunction with Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters to remote mountain-top wedding ceremonies for those who want to tie the knot against one of the world’s most dramatic backdrops. The package, valued at NZ$2998 per couple, includes a raft of things including two nights’ accommodation in a Lake View one-bedroom apartment at The Rees Hotel Queenstown. There’s also breakfasts, wine, chocolate, champagne, celebrant and a wedding photographer, but the highlight is a return helicopter flight for the bride, groom, celebrant, photographer and two guests up to the Remarkables or Cecil Peak for their alpine wedding ceremony. Not for the first time this year, I find myself thinking that I need to just find a fella. http://www.therees.co.nz
SEX ON THE BEACH
While Christmas is almost upon us, it’s never too early to be thinking about Valentine’s Day (if you know what’s good for you). This week, The Global Goddess enjoyed the sultry sensation of an aphrodisiac cooking class at the Sofitel Broadbeach’s Room 81 restaurant. We’re talking dishes such as freshly-shucked cupid oyster in a veuve clicquot champagne granite; seared nova scotian scallops with cauliflower silks with asparagus, morel mushrooms and a truffle vinaigrette; and a cherry soufflé, chocolate sauce and coconut sorbet. This class was to preview this luxury Gold Coast’s hotel’s raunchy and romantic Valentine’s Day/night package. To book this six-course feast, which includes a wine package of Australian, New Zealand and French varietals, priced at $225 per person; or the Deluxe Valentine’s Room package for $795 per couple, which includes an overnight stay and breakfast as well as the six-course dinner, go to http://www.sofitelgoldcoast.com.au
CARING ABOUT CAMBODIA CALENDAR
In May this year I penned a blog about Australian photographer Danielle Lancaster, who owns Blue Dog Photography. Danielle has been travelling to Cambodia for years and can’t shake her bewilderment at how the Pol Pot regime had ravaged its own people, the effects of which are still being experienced decades later. In 2011, she gained sponsorship to produce a calendar, the proceeds of which meant they could build two new classrooms and desks with a white board for local school children. In 2012, Blue Dog Communities was formed with the sales of last year’s calendar going towards replacing the school’s palm frond floors with cement for the children. This year’s calendar is ready to go to print, and in exciting news at Global Goddess headquarters, a photo take by me (pictured below) when I was in Phnom Penh last year, will also be featured. To order a copy of this calendar, which will go towards more valuable community work, please go to https://www.facebook.com/bluedogcommunities and to find out more about Lancaster’s annual photographic tour to Cambodia, go to http://www.blue-dog.com.au
IT’S A KIND OF MAGIC
The Global Goddess is pretty good at pulling a rabbit out of the hat, particularly when it comes to tight deadlines, but this bloke takes the cake. Acclaimed Australian illusionist Michael Boyd will open the famed live magic extravaganza Mystique at Sea World Resorts Ocean Theatre on the Gold Coast from January 1 to 31. Taught by his magician grandfather all the tricks of the trade by the age of 13, Boyd’s show will feature some of the world’s most impressive illusions as well as jaw-dropping escapes, levitations, transformations, special effects and mind-blowing disappearances. Since it premiered in Melbourne in 2009, more than 100,000 people each year have seen this show packed with new acts and extravagance. Shows will run from Tuesday to Sunday at 7.30pm plus special matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. http://www.SeaWorldResort.com.au
A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE FOR GLOBAL GODDESS READERS
Speaking of magic (or what I’d like to call a Christmas miracle), The Global Goddess has a surprise in store for her followers. Details to be announced early next week! http://www.theglobalgoddess.com