I love playing the tourist but while I’m quick to don my explorer’s hat while travelling I don’t do the same back home in the city.
So I decided it was time to experience my own ‘staycation’. Now the luxurious Sofitel Brisbane would normally be out of my travel budget, but not when I’m staying for only one night and, in a king suite with breathtaking views of the city and macarons on the bedside table, it’s easy to slip into holiday mode after a busy work week. Stephanies Spa Retreat is a glorious little oasis on level three of the hotel and soon after check-in I was relaxing in a massage chair with my feet soaking in a milk and rose petal-infused treatment, feeling all the stress of the week melt away almost as quickly as the fresh sorbet sitting on the table beside me.
Stephanies is also home to The Opal Rasul Temple, a room featuring detoxifying steam and a rain shower that is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Fully relaxed after my afternoon at the spa it was time for dinner at Champ Kitchen and Bar in South Bank, owned by Justine Whelan, also known for her successful Anouk Café in Paddington. Champ has a beautiful view of the illuminated Wheel of Brisbane but nothing could turn heads in the restaurant like the Sweet Carrot and Black Garlic dessert, a specialty from a menu of sweet treats.
While I’d never normally utter the words “garlic” and “dessert” in the same sentence, the elements of black garlic custard, carrot parfait, carrot tips, hazelnut brioche crumble and goats cheese sorbet turned my usually more conservative taste buds upside down and now I’m a true convert. Champ Kitchen and Bar is next door to QPAC so it took only a few minutes to get to the theatre and take our seats for a performance of the hit show Legally Blonde The Musical.
While that show will soon be moving on to Melbourne there are plenty more musicals coming this way before the end of the year, including Oklahoma!, Hot Shoe Shuffle and Grease. After a sound night’s sleep in a very soft and very big bed at the Sofitel I was ready to hit the shops the next day with Amanda Kruse from Shop in Style Escape as my expert guide. While Paddington is less than 10 kilometres from where I live I have to admit I’ve never taken the time to wander through it so I was happy for Kruse to show the way. Before I’d spent half an hour at the Paddington Antique Centre I decided I’m going to be buried there.
The heritage-listed converted theatre is a treasure trove of vintage furniture, homewares, clothing and jewellery and I could easily have spent the whole day wandering through the aisles. But Kruse had different ideas and I was dragged reluctantly away to the next stop. At Monty’s Chocolates the chocolatiers offer tastings and share stories about their recipes. All previous chocolate experiences paled in comparison to a cup of Monty’s pure melted chocolate, so thick the spoon stands upright in it unsupported. Paddington is also home to shops such as Petrol, Meow Meow and Ra Ra Superstore, which offer unique looks you won’t find in the city centre.
Shop in Style Escape hosts a number of tours throughout Brisbane to show even locals a side of the city they haven’t seen before. My weekend took me out of my comfort zone and showed me that I don’t have to travel far to discover new experiences, so next time I need a short break I’ll see what else my city has to offer.