Brisbane – Last Words

A local on his way to work.

I need to wrap up some final observations from my trip to Brisbane this summer. When I travel to a new place, and I think most people do this, I notice the big things first. Landmarks, architecture, climate, natural beauty, ease of movement, and the “feel” of the culture. Next come little details, small things that stick out without being that important in and of themselves. Only later, if I’ve had the good fortune to hang around for a while (or visit repeatedly), do I start to process all the stuff in-between that truly defines a place.

I talked about the big things earlier. Here are some of the small ones:

Roof coverings were either corrugated steel or clay tile. I didn’t see any composite shingles in the neighborhoods we drove through in and around Brisbane. Perhaps shingles don’t hold up in the local climate. Not sure.

Like Kansas City, the little shops specializing in local sports team swag overflowed with customers on game days.

St. John’s

Lots of churches, even in the downtown precincts. Mostly Catholic and Anglican, quite a few Baptist and a smattering of non-denoms. Everything from massive cathedrals to little storefront churches. St. John’s, the breathtaking red sandstone Anglican cathedral in the center of town, was founded in the mid-1800’s and isn’t quite finished yet. The stained-glass windows and architectural trim have evolved along with the city.

There was a little red and white “Emirates” banner atop the high-rise-under-construction across from my hotel.

School uniforms in Australia often include hats for both guys and gals. I thought they looked pretty cool, a more refined take on the classic broad-brimmed Aussie bush hat, but the students might disagree.

Coffee. Yum.

Coffee in Brisbane is very good indeed. Smooth and full-flavored. My latte was served up in a tall glass tumbler with a head of foam that your average beer would envy.

Brisbane has one of those giant ferris wheels, similar to the London Eye, that are de rigeur for world cities these days. My hotel room offered a higher vantage point, so I didn’t take a spin. Besides, it’s not the sort of ride you take solo.

The old Treasury, now a casino.

Old historical buildings, the massive ones built from stone which probably would have been permanently enshrined as museums in the States, were re purposed in Brisbane, often into retail space.

Crosswalk signs feature a pair of disembodied feet that look like they’re in a hurry to get somewhere. A bit more whimsical than our angular stick-figure guy.

The riverwalk is a popular biking destination, for obvious reasons.

There’s a network of bicycle rental kiosks across the Central Business District, but I saw maybe two or three rental bikes in use over the couple of weeks I was there. Our shuttle driver said they were a failed “bright idea” from one of the city’s controversial politicians, and their upkeep cost eclipsed any revenue they generated. There were, however, plenty of folks out riding their own bikes.

statue_garden_brisbaneAny regrets about this trip? Very few. I wish I’d had the chance to venture over to the coast, or further inland. I’d also hoped to see more of Australia’s iconic wildlife. I didn’t catch a glimpse of any marsupials, though some of my colleagues saw some wallabies bouncing along near our worksite. I heard a rumor of a dingo prowling about the barracks late at night. A few folks who arrived earlier traveled to a nearby nature park and cuddled some koalas. One even extended his stay and did some scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Kookaburras I did see, and lorikeets in profusion. I even came upon a treeful of roosting cockatoos on one midnight stroll.

So for now, I’ll say farewell to Brisbane, the girl who squints and has freckles in the best of all possible ways. With any luck, I’ll come back again, sooner than later.


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