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Australia: Bendigo, Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Sydney
Brisbane, Australia: No bridge too far
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The Story Bridge is indeed a Brisbane icon. But then there are other bridges and monuments that compete well for attention.
I reached Brisbane in the afternoon. It was an hour's drive from Gold Coast. After finishing business in Gold Coast, I decided to spend a day and half in Brisbane to explore the city. I booked myself for 2 nights at Hotel Ibis on Turbot Street in CBD area. An ideal location to be in since it's walking distance to attractions in CBD, the station and the river which offers excellent local transportation.
The least I say about my room at the Ibis better it would be. I was offered a room on the 16th floor with a balcony. Now, that's a sales pitch. The lift only goes up to the 15th floor. Not a good thing if you have 2 heavy bags with you. And the balcony doors are fixed. They don't open out on the balcony. Worst, the air conditioner deprived me of cool temperatures. And at night the rumbling from the elevator reminded me of passing locomotives. Sadly, I couldn't get another room as the hotel was fully occupied. Probably you are aware that the English sent their socially unfit to Australia. Hotel Ibis just prefers sending folks on their 16th floor. So be it.
Whenever I first visit a new destination, I spend the first couple of hours going through brochures that are available in the hotel lobby. City info guides and trips to city attractions reveal a lot. After completing my research, I stepped into my walking shoes, flung my camera on the shoulders and out I went. I was aware that I would be walking for most of time in Brisbane.
I planned to spend the remainder of the day visiting monuments, attractions and popular streets. My walk saw me through Ann Street, Queen Street Mall, Treasury Casino, King George Square, City Hall, up the hill to The Old Windmill, down to Anzac Square, crossing over the Brisbane River using the Victoria Bridge, walking along South Bank, experiencing Wheel of Brisbane, crossing Kurilpa Bridge and walking back to the hotel. After all that walking, a 12 inch sub and a bottle of chocolate milk were more than welcome. I crashed for the evening.
A little about the places I visited thus far.
Queen Street Mall is not a mall in itself. Instead, a portion of the Queen Street, reserved only for pedestrians, has an array of shops, restaurants, pubs and malls (including the monolith Mayer) that add up as one great location for shopping & dining. A must do for every visitor to Brisbane.
At the entrance of Queen Street stands the majestic Treasury Casino. Opened in 1995, in the historic Treasury Building, the Casino also offers accommodation facilities. The building is a fine example of Edwardian architecture with lavish application of sandstone. The building is fun to watch after sunset. Blue neon lights cast magic on the facade. For me, a visit from outside was just apt. For gamblers, the inside would be more welcome.
Originally called as Market Square, was later renamed King George Square in honour of the King. The location became a site for the City Hall. At the time of my visit, the City Hall was shifted to new location couple of blocks away. The existing City Hall building was undergoing renovation. It's fascinating to see Colonial Structures nestled between modern high risers. King George Square is a popular 'meet you there' place. The Free Brisbane Walking Tour departs from this location everyday at 11AM. Just look out for a volunteer… I was on my own though.
A healthy walk up the hill from Roma Street Parklands stands The Old Windmill. Commenced in 1828, the windmill is the oldest surviving structure in Queensland. The windmill and the treadmill were used to grind grain for the convicts. As years went by, the number of convicts reduced (why?) and thus the grinding operation of the mill ceased in 1845. Thereafter, in 1861, the structure formally became an Observatory & Signal Station. Later on the structure was used by the fire department to watch for fires in town. A time ball was added on the roof of the structure. Precisely at 1 PM every day the ball was dropped signaling the residents to set their watches. The clock on the City Tower later on replaced this fun of an idea.
The Anzac Square is located between Ann Street and Adelaide Street named to honour the Services of the Australian and New Zealand Army Core. The Square has the Shrine of Remembrance as well as the Eternal Flame of Remembrance and the Shrine of Memories.
A long walk towards and over the Victoria Bridge saw me in South Brisbane. The river bank, quite rightly is known as the South Bank. A park along the river is a very popular place for locals. In the evenings the paths are full to the brim with walkers, joggers and cyclists. The Southern Bank is home to a Museum. Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre and the Queensland Performing Art Centre. Also standing proud, in the middle of the park is the giant wheel offering spectacular views of Brisbane beneath.
The Wheel of Brisbane, a giant observation wheel, offers spectacular 360 degree panoramic views from a vantage point 60 meters above ground. Each of the 42 enclosed and air-conditioned gondolas are installed with an audio system that gives insights into historical landmarks of Brisbane. Amongst others, one can view Brisbane River, North Bank, Botanic Gardens, Goodwill Bridge, William Jolly Bridge and Mount Coot-tha. The 12-minute ride costs $15 and has my recommendation.
At the other end of the South Bank Parklands stands Kurilpa Bridge. It's a bridge reserved exclusively for use by pedestrians and cyclists and it's the largest tensegrity (a combination of tension and compression by use of steel cables) bridge in the world. The bridge resembles the sails of a ship and is indeed a pleasure to cross. Awe-inspiring when lit in the evenings!
I had the whole of next day to explore Brisbane. After breakfast I purchased a Translink Pass that entitled me to unlimited travel in zone 1 and 2 across trains, buses and ferries. The cost for an off-peak day pass is just under $6. This ticket can be purchased on board any of the services. My first stop for the day would definitely be The Story Bridge - a Brisbane icon. I walked to North Quay to board the City Cat ferry. There are 2 types of ferries. City Cat and City Ferry. The former are modern and big catamarans that are long haul. The later are smaller and criss-cross River Brisbane. Both of them are a highly popular form of local transportation.
Using the City Cat services I got down at Riverside and then walked back to Eagle Street Ferry Terminal. From there I took the City Ferry to cross over to the other side of the bank which was Kangaroo Point. From there began my walk. It took me good 20 minutes to walk to the Story Bridge. The massive steel structure immediately reminded me of the Sydney Bridge. The Story Bridge offered great views of North and South Banks.
I further walked to Fortitude Valley and to the China Town. And like all China Towns the streets had numerous shops and restaurants, painted bright red, offering stuff of sorts. In one of the cafes in by lanes of the neighbourhood, I rested a while with hot coffee mug in hand. Actually, a break was called for since it was raining, albeit light.
Ann Street is a long one. Outside of China Town, I hopped on to one of the buses that ran towards City Hall. I got down midway and walked up to Eagle Street Ferry Station. From there I could get the City Cat that dropped me at Gardens, the stop near The Botanic Gardens and Parliament.
Built in French Renaissance style the Parliament house sits between George Street and Alice Street. It borders with Brisbane City Botanic Gardens as also Queensland University of Technology. Just across the road I walked in the picturesque Botanic Gardens. Through the gardens I walked all the way up Edward Street to reach the Central Railway Station.
Whilst moving around, I noticed that a beer brand XXXX Gold was quite popular. Intrigued by the packaging and the story on the can, I decided to visit Milton Brewery the makers of 4X as well as other ales. I took a chance with my visit for I was not sure if visitors were allowed in. Milton Station is a just a couple of stops away. And the brewery is right next to the station. I was delighted to note that the brewery conducts brewery tours, twice a day. The tour costs about $22 that includes a 90 minute tour of the brewery and 4 shots of their ales. Unfortunately, since photography was not allowed, I decided to avoid the tour and spend the time in their ale room.
Paul the barman gave me some great insights. The brewery enjoys second largest market share (first being Victoria Bitters). I was fascinated by some of the Australian lingo that was associated with drinking. "off the wagon" meaning drink. "on the wagon" meaning off to the gallows! And then of course popular terms like "bend the elbow" and "one for the road". The terms all come from the good old days of convicts destined for the noose. For those interested there are many books dedicated to Australian Slangs… over 900 of them.
I took a train back and reached my hotel at about 4 PM. My plan was to catch up with my mails and wait for the evening to set. Brisbane would be illuminated. With a Translink ticket in my pocket, I could explore most of the monuments I saw in the morning, by night. The pictures will tell you more.
My airport shuttle (costs $14) took me to the airport in 60 minutes. No complaints since I could see some of newer neighbourhoods, on both sides of the river, as we picked fellow passengers.
I was to leave for Melbourne.
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