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2014...it's a wrap! 
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January Issue

A year with Fluffy Towel

2014 was a winner!

Winning an IPPY in New York City

Many writers willingly lock themselves away with their words and ideas often with little expectation of recognition. All the long hours, low pay and stressful deadlines melt away when someone mentions they not only read my work, but they found it relatable and enjoyable.

So imagine my excitement at discovering I had won an award for Permanent Impressions: A Salute to Contemporary Heroines AND I would be receiving the award in New York City. Most of you already know about my obsession with New York. I’m a writer without the appropriate words to describe its frenetic pace, inspiring urban landscape and coolness. As I write this, I know it’s struggling through another brutal winter it’s not designed to handle. I’m well aware the living conditions are expensive and difficult in comparison to WA’s laid-back lifestyle. No wonder New Yorkers have a tough reputation. Despite all this, I’m a goner; my love is unconditional.

The awards night was everything I could have hoped for and a humbling experience to be one of the winners out of 5,500 entries from around the globe. We won Bronze in the Best Regional Non-fiction category for the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Awards, aka the IPPYs. When I say we, it was a group effort and I’m incredibly fortunate to work with talented individuals like artist Jana Vosedil who created the concept and painted the portraits of 50 of WA’s most influential women. It couldn’t have been done without Carina Hoang and her publishing company Carina Hoang Publications; who incidentally is also a 2012 IPPY winner for her book Boat People.

Carina was also the voice on the other end of the phone in the wee hours of morning as I plugged away at what seemed an unachievable deadline of completing the 50 biographies in just three months. “We’re going to New York with this,” she assured me with what I thought was an overly optimistic declaration to get me through the nights while also undergoing a major renovation. As walls came down and my house was over-run with tradies, including a man who seemed to live on a scaffold for a week in my lounge room while installing an intricate skylight, I created a bubble of dust in which I worked. How foolish of me to underestimate Carina’s determination and no wonder she was also one of the 50 women who without their courage, tenacity and inspiration, there wouldn’t have been any stories to tell or portraits to paint.

2014 Highlights


The past year has been jam packed and full of travel and writing assignments and here’s a few highlights:
 

Ayurveda in Sri Lanka

In January I travelled to Sri Lanka, one of my other favourite destinations, to review Barberyn Resort on the country’s stunning southern coast in Weligama. The resort is entirely dedicated to  Ayurveda, meaning the ‘Science of Life” and I threw myself into the philosophy. I gave up coffee and alcohol, agreed to intake the foul tasting prescribed herbal potions and put on dietary programme in a quest to maintain balance between the life energies, or doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. I spent the mornings being treated to massages, baths, herbal paste applications, facial therapies and acupuncture; and the afternoons spent at my leisure. This wasn’t quite as pampering as it sounds, and in fact was a little confronting as there’s no segregation between the sexes and I’m generally not accustomed to being prodded for hours on end and bathed by complete strangers. Nonetheless, the experience was sheer escapism as how often do you get to leave behind the trappings of your own reality to fling yourself into an ancient culture totally dedicated to your wellbeing? Much to the confusion of the doctor, I checked-out a kilogram heavier, but I began 2014 feeling healthier and with a new appreciation of those small sacrifices I take for granted. 

 

Far Northern Queensland & Antonio Carluccio

I continued on my quest for warmth with a jaunt to Far Northern Queensland leaving a trail of jealousy in my wake. Rightly so too, and the Daintree Forest and Cape Tribulation, where the forest meets the sea, should be on everyone’s must-see list if you can get past the Great Barrier Reef, aka Great Barrier Fleece. But that’s another story; a cynical tale which could be applied to many heaving tourist hot-spots. As much as I would have loved to head further north and fantasise about never returning, I had to rush back for a hot date with the Godfather of Italian cuisine: Antonio Carluccio. This was his second visit to Perth to support the charity Mondo Community Warriors and once again me and husband were given the task of chauffeuring him around Perth. Oh it’s a tough life! His visit also co-incided with our daughter’s birthday; how many 11 year-olds can say they had their birthday dinner with a celebrity chef?

Wagin

In November I received an intriguing request to write a travel piece on Wagin for the Korean Airlines inflight magazine. I love a good road trip so I grabbed a friend and got hopelessly lost and ended up taking the scenic route via Collie. As rabbits, birds and unidentified creatures threw themselves at the windscreen on the road from Darkan to Wagin, which was very dark indeed by the time we got there, my friend recalled me with scary stories until we arrived at the Wagin Motel in the middle of night. Okay, it was only 9.00pm but “in the middle of the night” sounds almost dramatic enough to describe the journey. Nonetheless this quintessential outback town laid on the charm with the locals more than happy to chat a length about their home. I was joined for lunch by a group of ladies who had married farmers and still managed to run their own businesses, assist their husbands with the running of the farms and produce strapping young sons, and interestingly just one girl. The drive home was equally scary and although we took the direct route, which incidentally was 2 ½ hours as opposed to the 5 hours it took on the way there, a storm beared down on us as anaconda road trains slithered across the road. I wonder what my next road trip will bring?

Test driving a Bentley GTC V8 S convertible

My last assignment for the year was done in style in a GTC V8s Bentley convertible. You certainly command a lot of attention and respect on the road when driving around a car worth as much as a house. We spent the night in a hills hideaway at Hidden Valley Eco Spa Lodges and Day Spa. So this is how the other half live…

The year ahead


Bangalore, Goa and Chennai in January, the coffee plantations of Colombia in February, Bangkok in October and who knows where the rest of the year will take me? Stick around and we can find out together.
The stunning Green's Pool
 

Perth Winter Arts Season

I stayed warm during the cooler months by reviewing a multitude of cultural events for the Perth Winter Arts Season and blogging for the City of Perth. Some of favourites were Ben Elton's satirical offering about charging for the air we breath in Gasp!, interviewing the dancers from Bangarra Dance Theatre, the ridiculously wonderful Laughter on the 23rd Floor and I got as close as most of us have ever got to the infamous Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Bob Dylan in Richard Avedon’s Photography Collection.

ibis & Problogger

My next major assignment was with the ibis hotel chain to review their rebranded Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne hotels. The timing couldn’t have been better for the Brisbane trip as I managed to score a last minute ticket to Problogger on the Gold Coast; one of the biggest blogging conferences made all the more fun by joining the Perth contingency. We’ll be continuing our “training” at the Problogger seminar in Perth on 21st February and at the TBEX conference in Bangkok in October which is purely dedicated to travel writers and professionals. 

Peel region

I returned to the Peel region, which I had only really explored for the first time earlier this year. How this beautiful region which is just an hour south from Perth has escaped me for all these years is beyond me. There’s so much more than the coastal town of Mandurah to visit; although this time I started in town aboard a houseboat with Mandurah Houseboats. After a briefing session we spent the next three days floating through the Peel Estuary and the stunning Murray River. It was such a relaxing and fun experience plans are in the pipeline for another houseboat journey later in the year.

The Astor cruise ship

The maritime adventures continued with a cruise to nowhere aboard the cruise ship Astor. I commandeered another friend to join me and realising at check-in that we were some of the youngest by a lifetime or two, I fully expected to be tucked up in my cabin by 9.30pm. I couldn’t have been more wrong and now I know what’s possible when spending days at sea. Let’s just say it’s a bit like Vegas and here’s the full story.

It's all about you


Obviously, the opportunity to win a free night’s accommodation with the ibis hotel Perth certainly got your attention. As did any post about Sri Lanka and you seemed to enjoy the interviews I did for the Perth Winter Arts Season. And it’s hardly surprising anything food related keeps you coming back for more as did 10 ways to moon your honey and More mooning, aka nakation. I have loads more in store for you all in 2015. 
 

What do you want to read about in 2015?


Email me at carmen@fluffytowel.com or leave a post on the Fluffy Towel Facebook page  www.facebook.com/Fluffytoweltravel
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