Wine, Women and Song

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THIS journey begins like so many others. With me, frantically scouring Brisbane Airport for the man of my dreams who will not only be smart, funny and sexy, but will be on my flight, happen to be seated next to me, and will fall instantly in love with my jaunty wit and irrepressible beauty. Yes, because I am deluded.
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Instead, I am stuck on a five hour flight across the Nullarbor from Brisbane to Perth with the Redlands Rhapsody Choir – who are testing their vocal chords and my patience. But not as much as grandma and grandpa in 66J and 66K right behind me, who use the back of my chair to lift themselves from their seats, thus ripping out tufts of my hair each time they go to use the toilet. Which appears to be urgent and often. I comfort myself with an eye mask and The Village People on my iPod. Boys, you were so right. You can’t stop the music. Nobody can stop the music.
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And so I arrive in Perth where I meet my travelling companions, two of them recent brides who are still blushing profusely from their nuptial naughtiness. And so they should be. What’s not to adore about being in love? But I can’t help but wonder if this is some kind of joke the universe is playing on me. Why, God, why? Why me? Why here? Why now? And where are the horny miners for which this region is renowned?
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We are bound for Margaret River and a journey which consists of boobs, brides and Bunker Bay. I console myself with the thought of the wine I’ll be drinking over the coming days in this remote region which has etched itself into the Australian psyche. Mention to any Aussie that you’re coming to Margaret River and they act like you’ve just won lotto. And really, you have. Boasting 150 wineries, 7 breweries, salt-kissed surfers and a stray miner or two, and what’s not to love? It’s a cussing booze hag’s paradise.
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At the Pullman Resort Bunker Bay, delectably perched on the edge of the Indian Ocean, I indulge in a native Indigenous mud massage where my therapist Sarah applies a ring of mud to my lower back, and then gently massages warm oil into my muscles. It’s about as sensual an experience you can have without being arrested. If the horrible homophobes are right and “turning gay” is a “lifestyle choice”, it’s one I make many times during the next 80 minutes.
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We visit Vasse Virgin, a haven of soap and other super smelling stuff, plus olives and olive oil products. There’s even a tasting room and, rumour has it, in the near future a
“sealed section” where they will be launching a raunchy range of soaps. Look out for the “V” and “P”. Dustin Fisher, whose title I miss while talking about vagina and penis shaped soap to the managers, tells me the secret to snaring a man is by wearing a lovely scent.
“I love aniseed. Or you could try spearmint green tea or lime and cassia which is nice and refreshing,” he says, before returning to his lip gloss-making. A glorious sticky pot made from Perth bees wax, olive and essential oils.
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At Leeuwin Estate, Hospitality Manager Stepan Libricky talks about wine and food like the art of love making.
“Our award-winning chardonnay is aged in French oak. I find it a very sexy wine. I really find it very attractive. It is about letting the fruit speak for itself,” he says.
“There is nothing wrong with having a few glasses of wine with good friends and good food.
“Wine and food is very sensual today.”
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And so, too, is the Margaret River. Someone hands me the Margaret River Wedding Guide which includes 330 pages of happy couples. But defeated, I am not. I’ve discovered nearby Yallingup means “the place of love”. As I leave this lovely region, I make a mental note to return. I arrive at the airport. The Redlands Rhapsody Choir is on the same flight back to Brisbane. And they are singing a love song.
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Virgin Australia flies to Perth three flights per day from Brisbane and four flights per day from Sydney. Fares start from $199 one way from Sydney and $219 one way from Brisbane – http://www.virginaustralia.com.

Rates in a Studio Villa at the Pullman Resort Bunker Bay start from $239 per night – http://www.pullmanhotels.com or 08 9756 9100.

The Global Goddess was a guest of Accor hotels and Australia’s South West Tourism.
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Dear Pageant Girl

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IT’S Saturday Night Fever meets Sunday Morning Mass at this Samoan church service. Purple and white sequins adorn the altar and it’s as if Barry Gibbs himself has dressed the congregation which is resplendent in all white, bar the punctuation of purple ties. A sea of solemn heads, topped with white hats that would win any Melbourne Cup contest, are bowed in prayer. And so, too, is mine, yet I doubt we are speaking to God about the same subject. Why, God, why, did I choose to wear my leopard-print dress which stops just short of the knee to a conservative South Pacific church service and where in the name of hell is Dear Pageant Girl when I need him?
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Let me introduce you to Dear Pageant Girl: Sydney’s Peter Sereno who, when he’s not promoting Samoa, is making the world a better place, one beauty queen at a time through his website, blog, industry commentary and training of pageant contestants around the globe.

“It is kinda my little letter and beauty advice to the world. The beauty pageant industry is still growing in Australia and the majority of girls have no idea. They think they are just beautiful and that they will get by on their looks. I’m Filipino so I grew up with beauty pageants,” he says.

“I leave little notes on the site and give them advice such as ‘don’t leave the house without your dignity’ or ‘if you are going to sabotage the competition, do it with a smile.

“My top five tips are fake it till you make it; treat this like a job interview; there is no such thing as natural beauty; the higher the heels the closer you are to God; and be open to everything. Walk like the world is your catwalk.” (I spend the next day practicing walking like the world is my catwalk. I end up looking like a constipated crab).

In 2004, Peter worked with Australia’s own Jennifer Hawkins to assist her in winning Miss Universe and more recently with the current Miss Samoa/Miss South Pacific Janine Tuivaiti(pictured below) to secure her the prestigious title.
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“I have seen the most beautiful girls with the most ugly personalities which no amount of make-up can fix. It is true what they say: beauty radiates from within.” Peter says.

“But beauty doesn’t win a competition, it is the ‘x’ factor and you can’t define that. It is an energy that can’t be taught. You can discover that and harness that but it can never be taught.

“My role is to expose you and say ‘I am beautiful, I am all that’.”

It’s not only beautiful people Peter promotes, but stunning destinations such as Samoa, in which this interview takes place. Even the name of the country itself possesses a raw beauty – the word Sa, meaning sacred and Moa, centre. It’s in this sacred centre of the South Pacific you’ll discover a land of magic and mysticism, of rainforests, reefs, waterfalls and the most beautiful of beaches such as Lalomanu, upon which travel gurus Lonely Planet bestowed the title of one of the top 10 must-see beaches in the world.
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So smitten was he with Samoa, Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson lived there for four years in the late 1800s in a large colonial-style building on the main island of Upolu. The Samoans loved the author and called him Tusitala – or Teller of Tales. And it’s simple to see why Stevenson found so much inspiration in this nation.

Here, mahi mahi jump straight from the ocean onto your dinner plate, lobsters bathe in coconut milk fresh from the tree, and the papaya is as golden as the sunset. There are 361 villages in Samoa and one church for each village so you could go to church every day of the year. In between, check out some of the highlights such as the thrilling Papase’ea Sliding Rocks near Apia and the spine-tingling Sua Trench cave pool on the South Coast, accessible by a steep, wooden ladder.
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Some say Savaii Island, about an hour by ferry from Upolu, is the highlight of a Samoan sojourn with its markets, lava fields, canopy walkway, and blow holes down which a self-styled “coconut man” throws coconuts which are fired out into the ocean like canon balls.
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For others, it’s the smaller islands such as Namua Island, about 10 minutes by a tinnie from Upolu, which float their boat.
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Wherever you choose, there’s a range of accommodation options and one of the heavenly highlights is a night or two in a rustic beachfront fale. Forget your modern cons, and surrender to the sound of the waves crashing against the reef as you fall asleep under a thatched roof and mosquito net. (In my case, spending the night wishing a hot Samoan may mistake your hut for his and crawl in naked).
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If, as Dear Pageant Girl claims, the world is indeed your catwalk, then Samoa is the perfect destination in which to strut your stuff.
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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.

To unveil your inner Goddess, or to find out more about Dear Pageant Girl, go to http://www.dearpageantgirl.com.au
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My Samoan Seduction

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I CAN’T pinpoint exactly when, but at some stage in the conversation, Chris Solomona gets straight to the point. Of his penis to be precise. More so, the fact it’s the only part of his body from his middle back to his knees that is not covered in tribal tattoos, thus ensuring I spend the rest of our meeting trying to peek under his lava lava for confirmation. But this is not a story of sex. It’s one of seduction. A tale of tattoos, tradition and testosterone. Of tsunamis, tragedy and ultimately triumph. This is my tale of the South Pacific, welcome to my Samoan seduction.

The tattoos, deeply etched into Chris’ cocoa-coloured skin, scream of centuries of culture, tradition and the ultimate test of manhood…soul-searing pain. They speak volumes of this South Pacific paradise in which I find myself talking intimately with a man, whom I’ve never met, about the most delicious of subjects. Finding love, the Samoan way.
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“We are still intact and alive in our old ways. We have a Council of Chiefs and laws you must abide by. The most common law is it is taboo to think about marrying a girl from your own village. If you marry outside your race you will get a slap on the back. They will say ‘that a boy’,” Chris says.

“There is quite a process that a man has to go through in order to get a date. Back in 1999, I was drinking kava and I saw a beautiful woman come into the market and I asked people for her name and some woman told me it was Nora. So I went home and cooked all this food such as taro and a roasted pig. On the way to her village I stopped and bought two bottles of beer. There was no way I was going to do this sober.

“I walked in to her house and I put the pig on the floor and then forget what I am going to say. I can see two girls but I can’t see Nora in this room and I am wondering if I am in the right family. It turns out she was in the kitchen cooking and when she came out and sat next to me and I felt like I was eating broken glass.”
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“Two to three weeks later I spent the weekend with her family but there was no privacy. We went out for one year and there was no touching. I’m a modern male and this is paradise but we’re not that perfect,” he laughs at the sexual frustration.

Fourteen years later and the couple now have five children, all traces of sexual frustration seemingly erased. Chris, who manages the Samoan Tourism Association Cultural Village in the capital, may be a modern male, but traditions such as tattooing run deep within his veins. When the missionaries arrived here in 1830, they tried to stop tattoos but the Samoans refused to relinquish this crucial piece of their culture designed to test bravery and courage. But don’t be fooled. Chris describes the procedure, which takes several months, as “a world of hurt, pain and suffering you cannot explain”.

“It is pure pain and torture and something that no man in their right mind would go through. Coming out of it is like a second chance at living.”
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A second chance at living is what this charming country knows all too well having survived its share of cyclones and a devastating tsunami in 2009 which claimed 189 lives in the South Pacific region, many of them Samoan children. Samoa is a land of love and loss. Of triumph over tragedy. You can’t have paradise without pain. The Samoans, who ooze charm, character and beauty, know this maxim all too well, for this is a country with soul.
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According to Chris, if you want to find a Samoan man, first you need to find a Samoan woman.

“You find a Samoan woman and stay with her in the village and you mingle. Then, all the men in the village will be watching. In Samoa, you just sit back and wait and all the pieces will fall into place. Actually, waiting in the wrong word. You will be hiding,” he laughs.

I spend the rest of the day lurking behind coconut trees, practising my “hiding”. At the bar, at the beach, at the pool, behind coconut trees.
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And I’m in luck. The very next night I stumble across my Samoan sista-in-crime in the form of Natasha Tamasese at Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa on the South Coast. What I don’t know at the time is that Natasha has married into Samoan royalty – the Tamasese name synonymous with one of the paramount chiefs of the country and highly revered. Yes, in terms of a wing woman, I’ve hit the jackpot. And best of all, I’m told there’s one unmarried brother in the family who lives in Queensland. Yes, you heard it, right under my nose. I’d reveal more details, but then I’d have to kill you all.
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Aside from the opportunity to dine with the Tamasese’s, Sinalei is also home to Spa Tui I Lagi, named after the resort owner’s wife who died in the 2009 Tsunami. Even in languid Samoa, time marches on and tries to heal the deepest wounds. Joe, the resort owner, has found love again and just announced his engagement to Tammy. Yes, love, loss, tragedy and triumph. I contemplate these concepts during a massage at the resort’s oceanfront spa the next morning on the most perfect of days. My spa therapist mentions the sound of the waves breaking casually against the reef outside. “You can hear its voice,” she says simply. Even the ocean here is a seductress.
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And so, too, is the language in this country. When Samoans speak in their native tongue, they tend to slowly wrap their mouths around each word, pronouncing every consonant and evocatively elongating vowels. On the flight home I fantasise about two things: learning to speak this lovely language to my new husband who is yet to learn of my existence, and a return trip to the South Pacific. Yes, you too, should wrap yourself around Samoa. I can guarantee, it will seduce you back.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Samoa as a guest of the Samoan Tourism Authority. If you, too, wish to be seduced by Samoa go to http://www.samoa.travel for more information. Virgin Australia flys direct to Samoa from Brisbane once a week and several times from Sydney.

Spacifica Travel is offering a number of last-minute Easter specials to Samoa from $1449 per adult and $779 per child flying Virgin Australia from Sydney. The price includes return airport transfers, 7 nights for the price of 6 in the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel in Apia, and continental breakfast daily. http://www.spacificatravel.com
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