Sunday, December 17, 2017

Visiting Brisbane

Our recent trip to Australia, despite its unfortunate ending, was actually really good. But for a variety of reasons, I haven’t had a chance to talk much about it. It’s time to fix that, starting where we started, in Brisbane.

Neither Nigel nor I had ever been to Queensland before, the Australian state that, stereotypically, at least, is most popular with Māori people migrating to Australia—known colloquially as “Maozzies” for Māori-Aussies (the common spelling “Mozzies” is sometimes used—possibly pejoratively, because it’s slang for “mosquito”). We were going to Queensland for a family party, and decided to go a few days early for a mini-holiday. We haven’t had a real holiday in 8 years, and haven’t been out of the country for 11 years (I was last outside the country ten years ago this month when I made a short trip to the USA).

We arrived in the midst of monsoons, as we called it: Heavy rains, with higher temperatures than we’d left at home, and humidity to match. We didn’t have any appropriate rain gear, so we got a bit wet, though that didn’t stop us: After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we walked around the central business district, had lunch from Red Rooster, an Australian fast food chain, something Nigel missed (the chain entered New Zealand in 2004, failed, and exited in 2009), visited the first Apple Store that either of us had ever been too (we were both kind of meh about it, though), and generally wandered around. We also bought a couple cheap umbrellas at Cole’s.

That night we found a really nice Italian place for dinner, then back to our hotel.

The next day we first wandered around the city some more, including Brisbane City Hall, which was in the photo for my first post about our Australia trip. That’s where the Museum of Brisbane is located, but we couldn’t go up in the clocktower because the first available tour was that afternoon and we were meeting our friend Scotty for the afternoon.
Harbour Town on a quiet Thursday afternoon.

Scotty, who I originally met through podcasting, picked us up and we drove down toward the Gold Coast. One major stop was Harbour Town, a discount outdoor shopping mall. While we didn’t get much, it was fun to visit, and we even saw Santa (at right) hooning around, passing out lollies to kids.

Next we were going to go to Surfer’s Paradise, but remembered it was Schoolies Week, and traffic would be a madhouse. So, we went to see the Gold Coast Sand Pumping Jetty, at Main Beach, Southport:

I also posted a short video on Instagram that was taken from the jetty.

We had dinner at Broadbeach before Scotty took us back to our hotel for the end of a great day.
Our flight leaving Brisbane for Gladstone, further north in Queensland, was leaving at around 10am, so we go up, got ourselves ready, and left for the airport by train. There, we met the rest of the family who travelled from New Zealand, and we flew together—which would have been a really bad idea if the plane had crashed. It didn’t, and the story if our Gladstone adventure is for another day.

Our main impression of Brisbane is that it’s a lovely city, and the central city was clean, well thought-out, and has some fantastic architecture. It’s also the whitest city I’ve ever been in anywhere. That’s not a value judgement, just a reflection of reality. I’ve lived in ethnically and racially diverse cities and towns all my adult life, and even before that in towns that were not as noticeably white as Brisbane is. We were told that different areas of Brisbane are quite diverse, but if central Brisbane is home to a lot of jobs—and clearly it is—I would’ve thought there’d be more racial and ethnic diversity among the thousands of office workers wandering the streets at lunchtime—or any other time.

The second big thing we noticed—and yes, this IS a criticism—was the absolute absence of any hint of aboriginal culture or history. In the Museum of Brisbane, located in the city hall, there were many exhibits about Brisbane’s history from the arrival of convicts and other colonial settlers, through Federation and beyond, but only a brief acknowledgement of the original owners. There was, however, an outstanding audio-video exhibit in which people representing the diversity that apparently is the real Brisbane told their stories. The exhibit had an interactive computer system where visitors could answer opinion questions (like on marriage equality) and compare their answers with Brisbane generally and other visitors. I noticed that Brisbane opinions were consistently more progressive than were those of visitors, though not by huge margins.

Still, there’s so much to recommend Brisbane. It’s a big city, yes, but its CBD is more compact than Sydney’s, and it’s quite easy to get around. We’d definitely like to go back and see more of the city. We’d also like to see the Central Coast as well as more of the Gold Coast. Sounds like we’ll need more than one trip.

We definitely enjoyed our Brisbane visit, and we’re glad we had that little mini-holiday first.

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