So it's been another week, and I've made it to another city. This time it's Brisbane on the east central coast of Australia.
To be honest when I landed here, my first impression was: "hang on this looks a bit like England," perhaps reinforced by the overcast weather overhead. Then as I was driven to my hostel my opinion changed. In some ways Brisbane stylistically seems like a mix of English, Australian, and American cities. Theres a blend of old world colonial style buildings and ultra-modern sky scrapers and it's rather hilly and steep.
One strange thing I've noticed, is that there a few sights which are similar to London. First of all they have an area by the river called South Bank, and - weirdly - it looks distinctly similar to our South Bank from certain points; complete with London Eye style big wheel (though not as big), and buildings that look like the old IBM building, and the London South Bank center. What I also noticed out the corner of my eye when walking back to my hostel - which is in an area called The West End -, atop the hills surrounding Brisbane, were radio antennae which looked just like Crystal Palace tower. Not a remarkable sight I suppose - they are a common form of trasmitter - but for a moments I wondered if being away this long was starting to make me go a bit insane.
Brisbane in general could be referred to as a little big city. It's one of Australia's largest cities, yet is pretty easy to walk across. It takes less than an hour to circumnavigate the CBD of the town, and on my first day of looking round pretty much covered all the museums and parks the city has to offer. I did notice another funny shop name however: "Mr Toy's World of Toys". The reason I found this amusing is that it kind of points out the obvious. I don't think many people expected a business called 'Mr Toy's' to specialise in selling alcohol or performing vivisection after all. I also indulged in a meal at 'Hungry Jack's'(the local name for Burger King)and decided, with a distinctly, 'when in rome' attitude to try the Aussie Burger. This was a mistake as the burger which speaks for the culture of Australia, in this burger franchise, was a concoction of beef, bacon, cheese, salad - so far so good - and then beetroot and egg. It's worth mentioning beetroot is the one food in the world I would say I hate. Most other foods I'm indifferent to, or am happy to eat. Beetroot on the other hand I normally won't touch, and the thought of eating it with egg as well wasn't really a pleasant thought either. However, still armed with my last shreds of optomism I ate it. Luckily as this was a franchise chain burger, there were no distinct tastes to be found in the meal so the beets didn't even register on my tastebuds. It was a bit of a shame I had really hoped for something better from the Aussie burger, like Macadamia nuts, Kangaroo or Ostrich meat to be enjoyed in it. Hell! even Koala meat would have done in the sandwich. Something different, and not disgusting, would have been nice. Also, in a serendipitus turn of events, I got chatting to a local Brisbanite, who offered to give me a quick tour around the federal courts (similar to the crown court in Britain). The courts were quite modern looking, and I'm told they're quite new and had several million dollars pumped into them by the Australian government. It was also interesting to see another country, like ours, which has lawyers and judges who are required to wear the old fashioned wigs. It's friendly chance meetings like this that make me really like this country.
So where to next? And for this I had to be creative as Brisbane doesn't take long to see. There are a few left field options. One of which was a trip to another Koala sanctuary. Here I 'oohhed' and 'ahhed' at all the funny Australian wildlife. I was pretty happy this time to actually see a wombat - which are really big - and a tasmanian devil - which don't spin around and gibber like in the cartoons, much to my disappointment. I also actually held a Koala this time, which are soft and actually quite heavy. Aside from that I did the usual kind of zoo gawking, fed the kangaroos again, etc.
I also decided as I was in the area - I wasn't really, 2 hours away to be precise, but to be fair with Australia being relatively big this is pretty close - I went to Byron Bay for the day. I had a pretty nice time walking around the town and up the hill to Cape Byron, where I stood at the most easternly point in Australia. Unfortunately on my way down from the cape it began raining, and I mean bucketing down. Obviously being English this is something I'm used to, but there are two things that worked against this. One: I'm in Australia for gods sake, one of the sunniest and warmest countries on earth; a land which conjurs up the images of sunkissed beaches, and two: I didn't necessarily want to get wet. Aside from the poor weather at the end of the day, I enjoyed Byron. It's got a nice small town feel, despite being world famous. It's got a real vibe of it's own, with all the arts crafts and alternative therapies on offer, and also the beaches are pretty awesome there.
Finally I took a trip to the Castlemaine XXXX brewary on the east side of town. This was pretty interesting as I got to learn all about how beer is made, complete with talking models of famous Castlemaine figures. I also got to see the inner workings of the factory, complete with a view of the production line churning out (what seemed like) many thousands of bottles and cans of beer a minute, whizzing around on their converbelts. An additional bonus to this tour was that after I enjoyed - which were included in the tour price - 4 taster glasses of the beer. These weren't little sipping cups either, but rather proper glasses. So in a way I can say I've now enjoyed a piss up in a brewary, or something pretty close.
Still I had pretty much done Brisbane to death by now. It's a fine city, but if you're a tourist you pretty much exahaust the sightseeing oppertunities after a week. So I now make my way to Sydney, which is going to be a bit familiar after arriving there last week, and not least because I'm meeting with a few people that I know there.