Brisbane in a whirlwind

Glen and I flew to Brisbane on Friday afternoon for an extended weekend visit. He had enrolled in a conference so it was a good excuse to check out this part of the country. It had been more than ten years since I’d been to Queensland, and most of that was spent in the Gold Coast with only a brief visit to Brisbane.

We arrived around midnight and collected the hire car. The rather embarrassing part of that experience was being unable to find the hand brake. There wasn’t one and no matter how much we searched between the sides, beside the seats or around the dash, there was nothing that looked like it might release the brake and make the little red light disappear. Glen had to go ask where it was.

It was a foot brake. We had a good laugh about that.

I drove us through the impressive tunnel out of the airport towards our accommodation. We took a bit of a gamble after the signal for Google Maps disappeared (being so far under the ground) but luckily came out at the right exit and pulled into our accommodation.

We’d booked an AirBnB place for Friday and Saturday nights which was close to the hospital where Glen’s conference was. It was a spacious place and had everything we needed, except that the air conditioning was only in the living room and not the bedrooms. Eventually the air filtered down the hallway to us and Glen found a pedestal fan in one of the cupboards so Brisbane’s humidity didn’t stop us from sleeping.

Saturday

On Saturday morning we went for breakfast at The Nest, down the road from where we were staying, before I dropped Glen at the hospital. My friend Chris then came and picked me up, whisking me away on a personalised tour of Brisbane and its surrounds.

We went for a coffee in Milton at La Dolce Vita, a kitsch cafe that has Roman statues out the front and a replica of the Eiffel Tower on the roof. We didn’t so much as have coffee as have Nutella-based drinks (a Nutella Chai for Chris and a Nutella milkshake for me). We whiled away about an hour or more catching up on everything. We hadn’t seen each other for over two years so it was wonderful to get this time to get into it all.

From there we went to Mt Coot-Tha and the botanic gardens. Chris was really keen for me to see the tropical dome, which, as the name suggests, is a dome-shaped greenhouse that is even more humid than the already humid temperature outside. Palms and ferns, lily pads and lizards abounded, providing a home for plants that are true tropical (as opposed to sub-tropical).

We also checked out the fernery and the bonsais, then walked through the children’s forest, seeing more lizards and giant beetles. A brush turkey also crossed our path.

From the botanical gardens, we then went to d’aquila National Park, albeit only a small part of it at Mt Glorious. The national park covers a large area and it took a while to drive through it to where Chris wanted us to see. We drove along windy roads, sadly seeing evidence of the danger of travelling through this area. As we reached one part, an ambulance drove away and police officers were directing traffic. On the side of the road people were crying and hugging each other, while others looked over the drop. We don’t know the outcome but it looked like it wouldn’t be a good one.

When we reached Mt Glorious, Chris parked the car and we went for a walk through the rainforest. The temperature dropped in the forest, which made the walk much easier. As we headed down one path, a wallaby bounded across the track in front of us and stopped in the scrub on our left. On the right, we spotted a second wallaby that thumped the ground with its foot every now and then to alert others to our presence. I was stoked to see one wallaby, let alone two. We saw another couple as we continued our walk. They weren’t the only wildlife we saw, however.

We heard more birds than we saw, but we were thrilled to see a few fantails flying around, their tails spread out like…well…fans, obviously. And another treat was seeing a large black skin. I started a bit when I saw the scaly skin but fear soon gave way to fascination as we watched it slip and slide down the hill.

The trees were amazing as well, so tall and straight, and plenty with vines or stag horns growing on them. It was unusual to see them growing wild as my experience of them is often of them stuck to a board and strung up on a tree. Often dead or dying.

We got to a lookout over some falls (though the water was rushing much) and then took the track back up the hill. It was much harder going up than going down.

After we got back to the car, Chris drove us to his place so I could check out his pad and then we went for a late lunch at South Bank, settling on a Mexican place before getting some ice-cream made with nitroglycerin??? from Nitrogenie. South Bank is an impressive area. Sure, it’s where all the tourists go but that’s because there’s stuff going on. Plenty of restaurants, a market, free and open swimming pools with fake beach (and hot shirtless men), as well as museums and art galleries.

We then went back to the apartment to meet up with Glen and Jimmy. We chilled out for a while and then went back to Southbank, meeting Dean, and having dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Ginga (which we later learned is part of a chain). Lots of food and talking, then a short walk and some ice-cream (again) before heading home. It was a full-on day and I was more than ready for bed at 11pm.

Sunday

Sunday morning, Glen, Chris and I went for breakfast at Harvey’s Bar and Bistro, enjoying the balmy air and the feeling of actually being on holiday. Breakfast was well proportioned and tasty (I had poached eggs with grilled halloumi, of which Glen took half, and the boys had potato rosti).

Glen wanted to check out an exhibition that was displaying at Queensland Art Gallery so we went back to Southbank to check it out. We went to the wrong gallery to start with but luckily they’re close together so it didn’t take long to find the right one.

We took a quick trip around the exhibition (it was small to begin with) and then, because it had been over an hour since we’d last eaten, we had coffee and dessert at the cafe. One of the cool things we saw was an area setup for drawing based on the patterns that appeared in a painting.

What you do is you pick one of four pieces of paper which has an outline on it of a woman, a tree, a parrot or a man. The outline is transparent so you place the paper on the table which has patterns on it. You then draw in the patterns on your outline. You’d think it’d be overrun with kids but every person using it when we were there was an adult. Apparently it’s usually only adults on it and they stay there for a while. It was really nifty. We stayed to complete our art and then we decided it was time to go.

We said our goodbyes to Chris and headed south to Currumbin Valley to see Jay and Jenni and their two kids, Jediah and Jordella. They’ve got a beautiful block of land that looks out across lush green forest, and a recently installed infinity pool and spa. The view is spectacular and the area is so relaxing and beautiful. I think we were there about 15 minutes before we were in the spa.

Drinks, fresh prawns, chatting and swimming – what a way to spend an afternoon and evening. The thunder and lightning rolled along after a while, and then a bit of rain, but it was just heavenly. So relaxing. We ate a delicious roast chicken dinner and then, because we could, we got back into the spa and pool.

Monday

Waking up was a bit of a struggle but we managed to sleep in a while, getting up in time to see the kids off to school and Jay off to work. Glen and I were totally non-committal with our plans for the day but we reassured Jenni we could look after ourselves and so she was free to go surfing nearby. We lounged around for a while. I had another swim. Then, as we were deciding what to do, Sandi got in touch. We didn’t realise she was in Brisbane but she was free for a couple of hours so we packed up the car and drove back to Brisbane to see her and her son, Frankie, for late yum cha.

More chats over good food, catching up on two years (or more) of what’s been going on in our lives. We talked about kids as well as it’s still very much front of mind for Glen and I and whether we’re going to try for them or not.

Sandi had to go pick up her other son from school so we said goodbye and went for a wander around the shopping centre. Glen had a shave and a haircut while I bought shoes. By the time Glen was finished it was time to go to the airport and drop off the car.

We got there with plenty of time to spare, returned the car, went through security and waited at the gate. Our Brisbane mini-adventure had come to an end. I think we’ll definitely come back, especially as we seem to know more people than we expected in the city. I’d also like to get up to the Great Barrier Reef before much longer, and the Daintree too. Not sure when we’re going to find the time…

We arrived back in Perth at about 9pm. The five-hour flight home was comfortable as there was a spare seat between Glen and I so we could spread out a bit more. David, who’d been house and cat sitting for us, was there to pick us up, which was a relief as we didn’t have to pay for a taxi (which from the Virgin Domestic Terminal is a bit more expensive). Back to work tomorrow.

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