Early in the morning we took the two hour flight from Melbourne. One thing we’ve kinda worked out on this trip is that it doesn’t really matter how early we set out, we’re still shattered from the act of travelling and rarely achieve anything on the day of the trip. If anything, it’s better to travel late afternoon/early evening and arrive very late, at least you’ve got the whole day in one place.
Anyway, that’s a roundabout way of saying that we did nothing on the first day. Around 7pm we figured we should go and get some food – and so headed into Brisbane CBD. This is very gridlike (in common with Melbourne and unlike Sydney). This is both a blessing and a curse, a more logical layout should be better, but one unrealised wrong turn and you’re heading directly away from where you want to go. In this case we just wandered around a bit, and then headed back to a nice-looking Lebanese place near our hotel. Fortunately it was nice-tasting as well as nice looking, so we chowed down, head back to our bed and prepared ourselves to, you know, actually do something the next day.
The next day happened to be New Year’s Eve. After picking up some supplies for later (not really fancying the outrageous outlay that heading to a city bar for New Year’s would be) we pointed ourselves towards some museums. In Brisbane there are a number of museums clustered even more tightly than the Natural History/Science/V&A in London. Architecturally they’re more like the National Theatre, a sort of brutalist/fallingwater hybrid. I quite liked it. Anyway, we meandered through the Queensland Art Gallery, had lunch at the Queensland Library and then avant garded ourselves through the Gallery of Modern Art. After this, we wandered down through the South Bank park, which, even at 4pm, was filling up with people staking out spots for the New Year’s firework display. Finally, we headed back to our room for steak (well, not for Amy) baked potato and champagne to ring in 2014.
Having successfully rung that particular bell (and before London had managed it) we got up the next day to head to North Stradbroke Island (or, more Australianly, ‘Straddie’). Just south-east of Brisbane and at the top of the Gold Coast, we massively underestimated the time it would take to train-bus-ferry-bus our way there and three hours later we finally plonked ourselves down for some well earned salt-and-pepper calamari. A short clifftop walk later and we made our way down to a quite stunning beach. As I waded my way out I reflected on the stunning natural beauty of this country. Then I got knocked off my feet by a large wave and realised that the current was really quite strong and trying to kill me. A feeble attempt at swimming later, and the potential tingling of sunburn, I decided that the beauty was better appreciated in the shade. While reading about it on Kindle.
Our next day took us out to the Botanic Gardens and the Brisbane Planetarium. We got to the planetarium just as a show was about to start and enquired if there were any tickets remaining. Yes, but it was a kid’s show, was that OK. Sure, why not? Expecting very little, I absolutely loved it. Projected up onto a dome screen it was a 25-minute cartoon going through the solar system (the conceit was that it was a family of aliens looking for a nice place for a holiday. The payoff at the end was basically ripped from Hitchhiker’s). It touched on dwarf planets, gas giants, rings, moons, asteroids, rotation, revolution. OK, not in any great depth, but not particularly dumbed down. The room was silent all the way through and at the end the (very Scottish) presenter projected that night’s sky up, showing the difference between viewing in Brisbane and out in the bush and talked about constellations, galaxies, nebulae, the Milky Way and the Zodiac. It was excellent. Afterwards you could wander around the small museum elaborating on everything in the film and showing models of all the moon and mars landers, as well as all the space stations (of particular interest having seen Gravity recently).
The day after, sadly Amy was feeling unwell, so I decided to venture back to the QAG and GOMA, after a stop at the Museum of Brisbane. There were a couple of paid exhibits we’d skipped last time, so I sought them out now. A presentation of Californian Design in the early-mid 20th century resonates quite nicely with a lot of the feeling around Australia. Also it got me back in front of chair design by Charles and Ray Eames. In the evening, we caught up with Amy’s sister Rachel, who’s doctoring out here, for dinner. A pleasant Japanese fusion meal was followed by a riverside stroll before returning back to the hotel and packing up.
Finally, we rose the next morning to be greeted by 41 degree heat. Deciding that the air-conditioned Qantas Business Lounge was the better part of valour, we decamped early to the airport, and headed north to Cairns.