February 23-26, 2017
Near our hotel in Brisbane, I duck into a busy shopping mall for an emergency hair color and cut. The stylist can take me today. As I am waiting to be “re-blonded”, I watch school kids walk through mall with the most unusual uniforms, especially the girls! They look like something from the fifties or even earlier. Peter Pan collars, waistbands on blouses, inverted pleats in the back, bands on short sleeves, they are styles that I haven’t seen in decades. The hair stylist tells me that they are from public and private schools and she doesn’t seem to think they are unusual at all. She likes Vegemite*, though she doesn’t know what it’s made of, thinks it funny that Americans think that Aussies drink Fosters beer. We don’t have lots more to talk about than this and I enjoy watching people go by and surfing the web. Brisbane has free citywide wifi, which is so civilized.
Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia, with about two million people. We decide to get an overview by doing a hop on, hop off bus for most of a day. I see lots of pretty tree lined streets and new skyscrapers, many under construction. It’s tropical here, and reminds me a little of Honolulu, only with a little more Great Britain thrown in? Brisbanians are proud of their never ending summer. They claim to receive seven hours of sunshine everyday. It’s always beach weather, though they are inland on a river. Fifteen (pronounced fif deen) kilometers to the south is the Gold Coast and just to the north is the Sunshine Coast. This paradise is cursed by recurring floods though. In fact, The Powerhouse, a repurposed power station on the river, has an impressive modern art piece that shows the levels of serious floods that they have experienced here. They are also cursed with large aggressive bull sharks in the river, and there is no swimming here.
Old Queenslander bungalows are built up on stilts or stumps, to allow air to pass beneath and cool the house, and to let floodwaters pass beneath. They also have large verandas which wrap around the houses with shutters on windows to allow air in and keep heat out. I adore the sweet Victorian touches such as gingerbread lattices below the roof. Corrugated roofs are practical and found on many older buildings. We learn that they are easy to repair or replace after cyclones!
We hop off at George’s for a terrific lunch of Greek seafood, in what we read is one of Brisbane’s well known places. The food is wonderful and the view over the Brisbane River really gives us a nice sense of place. However, I find myself staring into the muddy water below looking for sharks. We finish just in time, as we leave it gets busy and loud.
On this bus tour we pass another of the many ANZAC, Australian New Zealand Army Corps, monuments. I now put together that the Anzac biscuits (cookies) that I saw in New Zealand and previously here in Australia are named for these soldiers. The cookies are made without eggs and have a long shelf life. Families made them to ship overseas to their loved ones in the service. The cookies are still very popular today. They are very crunchy and are made with coconut. I enjoyed them and will try to make some with the grand-darlings when I get home.
It cools down a little bit in the evening and we walk across the river from the CBD (central business district) to South Bank. It is the happening place with a weekly street fair and live music. The Wheel of Brisbane is a large Ferris wheel with enclosed air conditioned gondolas. There are huge numbers of people strolling the street or eating at the restaurants in this area. The best feature here are some gigantic pools where hundreds of kids are swimming. It’s a very nice consolation prize, to have these beautiful pools for public use, since they can’t swim in the river.
Our next morning and it is time for Donut Time. This is the adorable little shop that spied in both Sydney and at Bondi Beach. We just couldn’t eat one when we saw this shop before. Now, which monster-sized decant donut to choose? The very cute girl at the shop selling them exclaimed that she just loves donuts, but looked like one never crossed her lips. She’s proud to tell us Donut Time started, here, in Brisbane. The most popular? It’s the Nutella donut. I can only take one bite, it is filled with Nutella and is so rich…..I ….just….can’t…..Barry takes one bite and we have to toss it.
The River Cruise welcomes us to “Brizzy” (These Aussies have such cute shortenings of words! Tazzy is Tasmania. Breakfast is “brekky”, it is listed as such on menus and signs. It’s so, so friendly.). The tourist river cruise serves tea! Tea, scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam await us onboard. It’s too bad that we can’t enjoy some after our overdose on one bite of that donut. Again we hear about the aggressive bull sharks in the dark green river that winds through the city. Dark green, muddy water has me straining to see the sharks lurking below. Jet skiers zoom by, only a couple, but I worry for them. According to our tour guide on river cruise, one of the city cat ferries had a bull shark jumped from the water into the ferry, thrashed around a bit then fell back into the water. She-it!
We pass the Brisbane Story Bridge. It’s a cute little baby version of Sydney Harbor Bridge, same designer. We also learn that during WWII a million American troops were stationed here, in a city with only 300,000 residents at that time. So the river tour is a little history, some interesting facts. T
We found a fun sushi restaurant, like some we’ve seen on tv. Plates some by on a conveyor belt, you take what you’d like and then order drinks from a monitor at our seats. So fun! This has been a relaxing place to unwind and explore a bit.
* Vegemite – from Wikipediais a thick, very dark brown Australian food spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives. It was developed by Cyril Percy Callister in Melbourne, Victoria in 1922….A spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits as well as a filling for pastries. Vegemite is salty, slightly bitter, malty, and rich in umami – a glutamate similar in flavour to beef bouillon.