First and foremost, I have to apologise for the long silence; there are 3 excuses I’d like to throw your way.
1. I’ve been desperately looking for a job and vowed that I’d put all of my effort into that quest. Thankfully I have a trial tomorrow and it means that the pressure has somewhat subsided – thank goodness because my funds are running dangerously low and I need to save before going to New Zealand.
2. The heat in Queensland is on a totally different level and every time I sat down and attempted to write I would end up slipping into a sweaty coma. An attractive image isn’t it? You’re very welcome.
3. When I’ve not been panicking about unemployment or passed out on the sofa after brief exposure to the scorching sun, I’ve been having the best time in Brisbane. However, before I tell you about the last couple of weeks, I’m going to issue a warning.
I love meeting fellow travellers; you gather all kinds of stories, advice for when you arrive in a new place, recommendations for activities or hostels and, most of all, you build relationships with people that you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come. However, for all of the positives, there is one huge negative that I’ve thankfully become aware of very early on in my trip: people are far too eager to recommend that you skip places or limit your stay to only a couple of nights if they themselves haven’t been particularly impressed with that area.
I do understand the merit of being ruthless with your itinerary if you’ve only got a limited amount of time; it pays to be selective if you don’t have room for mistakes and disappointment. However, I’ve got a year in which to experience the country and I’m not just here for a “best-bits” tour. I like the fact that I’m not necessarily going to love every single place as much as the one before, I think that’s what differentiates the trip from merely being a holiday.
The other reason I dislike the dismissal of places as “not worth stopping for” is because, usually, the people making the recommendation have only known you for a couple of hours before they make the statement. Ultimately, they may have your best interests at heart, but they don’t actually know why you’re travelling or what your preferences are. I know for a fact that some of the places I love will not be for everyone, just as I can recognise that there are merits to those that I dislike. Add onto that the fact that you’ll be making friends in every place you go to – the area may be a bit of a dump but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the people you meet there will be rubbish. This last point, especially, means that it’s impossible to write off a location.
I’d like to take this opportunity to stand up for Brisbane. I was told, an astonishing number of times, that I shouldn’t stay for any longer than 2 nights because, in comparison to Sydney and Melbourne, it has far less to offer. I detected an air of indifference every time I asked about others’ experiences and it worried me slightly; I had always planned on staying for longer due to having family and friends in close proximity to the CBD as well as on the outskirts of the city. Thank goodness I stuck to my guns and left room for a longer stay because I love Brisbane; here are a few reasons why.
It’s beautiful. There are so many different examples of beauty in the city and its surroundings. The floral parklands of the South Bank with its Streets Beach are spitting distance from the pristine Queensland State Library which offers views of the river from a variety of serene reading rooms. To get to one from the other you can either walk along the river whilst looking across at the sparkling CBD or make your way through the tropical jungle walk which brings you out at the Wheel of Brisbane. The area reminds me of London’s South Bank in the sense that its wheel is situated right next to Brisbane’s answer to The National Theatre: The Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Albeit the palm trees, glorious sunshine and exotic birds remind you that you’re on the other side of the world, but the similarities are there. I could spend days wandering around popping into the museums, browsing the markets and taking in the views… well actually, I’ve done just that!
If you venture to the outskirts of the city, you’ll find some of the most breathtaking tropical scenery and there’s so much of it to explore. I went on a motorbike ride with my uncle from his house, about an hour north of the CBD, to Mount Mee via Clear Mountain, Mount Glorious and Lake Somerset. We stopped off at some amazing lookouts along the way and the further we climbed, the tinier the city appeared in the distance, nestled amidst the incredible greenery. After experiencing the wind rushing past my ears and nothing but a helmet separating me from the vista I can totally understand why my uncle loves biking, especially now that he’s back in Australia. My parents would have a heart attack if I took it up as a hobby myself though so, just to reassure them, I can confirm that I haven’t splashed out on lessons just yet.
It’s in a great location on the East Coast. Sitting just above the Gold Coast and at the base of the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane itself may not have direct access to the sea but if beaches are what you want, there are plenty nearby. Surfers Paradise (home to numerous theme parks and one of the longest beaches in Australia) is barely an hour South and places like Mooloolaba and Noosa are a similar distance in the other direction. Add to that the fact that Australia Zoo is just on the doorstep and you’re spoilt for choice in terms of possible activities and day trips.
There are so many options for quality food and drink. The Bavarian Bier Café, on Eagle Street Pier, is a stand out choice for an evening meal and a few (or many) drinks with great service. Order a stick of shots if you want the unique experience of your drinks being delivered on a yard long plank whilst your waiter rings a hefty cow bell – who wouldn’t want that?
The Three Monkeys Coffee and Tea House in the West End (not a theatre district like London’s but home to many bars and restaurants) offers incredible cheesecake and gigantic bowls of chai latte. My lovely friend Maddi welcomed me to the city with a trip here and it was the perfect introduction to Brisbane’s quirky café scene. I must return soon to sample more of the menu… more of those cakes at the very least.
I’ll be posting more about Brisbane over the next few weeks due to the fact that I’ll be staying here until April 13th, when I fly to New Zealand. If you take anything from this post I hope it’s this: don’t write off a destination before you’ve spent some time there. It doesn’t matter how adamantly your new friend, of 15 minutes, swears that you’ll hate it – they don’t know why you’re here, what you’re looking for or who you might be meeting along the way. The only exception to this rule should be on the grounds of your personal safety; if someone advises that you don’t go to North Korea, for instance, I’d probably take heed. Just make sure you have the trip that you want, because it’s better to regret going somewhere than always wondering what you would have thought of it.