Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city has been described in travelogues as a “sub-tropical urban oasis“ and also as “the sunny, sophisticated capital city of Queensland.” I don’t think I can comment on the sophistication as I believe this would have required me to go to museums, art galleries, high end restaurants and perhaps a play or two. Those activities are not on my list of the top 4 things to do in a city. But I can vouch for it being sunny, sub-tropical and a very family friendly urban city with plenty of opportunities to play both downtown and in the suburbs of Wynnum, Manly, and Lota where my son lives. The final few days of my Aussie holiday were spent back in the Brisbane area at leisure while the rest of the family returned to work and other scheduled local activities.
Life was a bit lower keyed but it still had a lot of lively moments. I resumed my walking, either into town or on the bayshore, being mindful that I had signed up for a half marathon in Portland OR in10 days. I not only still had to step up my training miles but would be traveling halfway around the world, and would be needing to switch night and days around. I knew I could finish the course but I was more concerned about the pain factor should I blow off the final days of race walking. So my goal was to walk every day and include one 9-10 miler. For that I decided I would head to Lota Preserve to see if I could re-connect with the 8 foot python snake I met up close and personal a couple weeks previous. Not only did it stand me up, but Australia is heading into the summer season and the temperatures were climbing into the higher 80’s. I imagined reducing the discomfort in my feet from the long walk by soaking my feet towards the end in the pleasantly cold Wynnum wading pool. Being shallow however the water warms up fast so that the vision was quickly dashed. So I headed up into town and found a wonderful little coffee cafe to get a latte — and enjoyed it so much I returned there each day until I departed.
Public transportation is so accessible so Miriam, Luke and I headed into the city late one afternoon to meet Nick for dinner. We opted for both rail and river transit. We took the Queensland Rail into the city from Manly. Since I had never taken the CityCats, a catamaran ferry, on the river we opted for a “joy” ride since we had quite a bit of time before meeting Nick. Luke can identify the differences in the CityCats – from older to newer models in operation and insisted that I become proficient in this skill as well. Now in my mind the differences are subtle and difficult to commit to memories as this is not the type of information I normally choose to store in long term memory. But I worked at it as this is important to my grandson. More on this later.
Southbank was the destination on our “river cruise” but we got distracted and missed this stop. Much to Luke’s delight we could disembark and re-board a CityCat going the other way — and hopefully one of a different newer model. The distraction was the Australian Defence Force Army helicopters. They were practicing their routines for the “Riverfire” air show and fireworks display to be held on Saturday. They were flying low, hovering, and buzzing building and it made for a very exhilarating experience to witness. Once on shore, we wandered through the tropical gardens and by the man made inner-city beach of the parkland of Southbank with great views of the city. After spending some time at a playground for Luke we met Nick and the dinner choice settled on was “Julius Pizzeria” which to me is really a misnomer as it was not my ordinary concept of a pizzeria. It was a somewhat upscale restaurant. It was very busy though service was excellent with unruffled waiters; the menu had excellent variety of Italian offerings and many authentic thin crusted pizzas to choose from. The food was excellent.
I love the walkability of Wynnum – within a mile’s walk from the house, I can shop for just about everything I normally need. But one of the things I enjoy the most after the bay front is seeing the original Queenslander homes and in general the many homes resembling the architecture of the Queenslander homes. This style is very much the heritage of Brisbane. This style includes the raising of the main living spaces off the ground on vertical “stumps” of timber (we call them piles or stilts). This allows the building to “float” above the terrain. Stilt homes are typically build homes on stilts to prevent flooding. But in the original Queenslander, all have this underfloor area that is used to cool the building through ventilation as well as for protection from termite attack and other pests. Additionally, the design is both stylistic and practical and can overcome any variations in the terrain and allow for the flow of water across the terrain if rain excessive. The lower area is often screened around the base with wood strips.
This “stump” platform and the design and placement of the windows encouraged cross-ventilation and uninterrupted air flow for passive cooling. Nick and Miriam live in Queenslander and there is no air conditioning or heating, relying on the style of the home to regulate the cooling and heating of the home. It definitely is not the ideal solution in an age of air conditioning but I do like the eco-friendly and financially friendly aspect of it. As the breezes and fans don’t completely make for a comfortable temperature, I did opt for a space heater some nights. There is usually a verandah and it is a great outdoor living area and I really enjoyed their veranda with its mild breezes and shade. Though these homes are well suited for this sub-tropical climate, I noticed that more and more of the older homes and most likely all the new building have central air and heat and just use the architectural style.The roofs are usually steep and sheeted with corrugated metal. I also noticed walking through the neighborhoods that most of the homes in the areas I visited had front yard fences.
The grand finale of my visit in Brisbane was a family 2 hour sailing lesson and then a trip to the Brisbane Festival Riverfire for the evening festivities. Nick, Miriam and Luke are taking a series of 10 sailing lessons and wanted me to have the experience, so booked and extra outing so I could join them. It was great fun. I have never had much of a chance to sail so just learning such terms as main sail, boom, jib, keel, trim etc. was the first challenge. I had a chance to try several different positions but definitely my shot at managing the rudder was the most harrowing for everyone on board. Our instructor maintained control by straddling the rudder it and subtly (and then not so subtly) using his legs to prevent any catastrophic errors when I continued to forget to move the rudder in the correct direction or keep it centered. We arrived back at the dock though in good order without capsizing the boat.
We then journeyed from Manly Harbor, via Queensland rail, to the Brisbane downtown riverfront for the aerobics show of the Army helicopters and jets followed by the acclaimed Riverfire fireworks show. We again got to see the army helicopter display but of equal interest to Luke was the CityCat catamarans cruising the river. Each time one passed, and this was often, it was my job to identify which model it was. Fortunately I got a passing grade on this 3 hour quiz which occurred from our chosen vantage point on the not so easy on the derriere cement steps near the Riverside Center. We thought this a good vantage point from which we could see this ultimate array of pyrotechnics shooting from barges, pontoons, high-rise buildings, and the Story Bridge. We had a burrito picnic on the steps, people watched, and enjoyed being in the vibrant energy of this festival.The finale did not disappoint with an incredible 20 minute of blazing, booming, brilliant, sparkling, rainbow explosions. As we took the train home I felt sad that I would have to be leaving this lovely city, a wonderful country, and my dear dear son, grandson and daughter-in-law the next day. Our final outing on Sunday, departure day. was a trip to a Koala Reserve area, part of the property of the Nazarene Theological College. It was a disappointment to not encounter any koalas there but I came upon the only kangaroo seen in the wild on the entire trip.