Silent Sunday #20

I’ve been plundering my photo archives and try to find some of my better ones (no easy task!). I’m picking a few from Australia for the next few months.

Bordered by the Brisbane river, the heritage-listed Brisbane City Botanic Gardens are located on Gardens Point in the CBD. The mature gardens have many rare and unusual botanic species, in particular, a special collection of cycads, palms, figs and bamboo.

Must-see and do list for Brisbane

You didn’t think I’d finished with Australia, did you? I’ve got a couple more posts this week and then I’m going to cover our Thanksgiving Stateside. I do however reserve the right to return to Australia later in the year.

I consider we were most fortunate to spend two glorious weeks in the Sunshine State’s capital Brisbane but if you weren’t as lucky as us, what should you focus on if you have less time available?

Most of the city’s main attractions lie along its river, so initially head on down to the Brisbane river.

Story Bridge

A monstrous mass of steel, Brisbane’s cantilevered Story Bridge is perhaps the most imposing of the city’s 16 river crossings. The 777metre (approx. 1/2 mile) long structure reaches from the dramatic Kangaroo Point cliffs to the vibrant Fortitude Valley precinct on the edge of the CBD (central business district). Designed in 1934 by Brisbane-born Dr John Bradfield, who was well known for his role as the chief engineer on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was opened on 28 October 1939.

A toll booth was established on one side to recuperate construction costs which were lifted much earlier than authorities expected, largely thanks to the increased traffic from US troops during WWII (the city was the Allied Forces’ headquarters for the South West Pacific campaign). The only reason you’d have to pay to cross the bridge these days is if you decide to do the Story Bridge Climb. I didn’t because I don’t like heights.

City Cat Ride

For only a few dollars, take a magnificent joyride along the Brisbane River to witness the entirety of Brisbane. From ferris wheels, skyscraper buildings, magnificent architectural bridges, historic properties and luscious parks, the City Cat is easily one of the best (and cheapest) ways to see Brisbane.

South Bank

What should probably be one of the first stops for any tourist in Brisbane, the South Bank is located perfectly in the city centre. The parklands here boast a beach, gardens, museums, galleries, library, restaurants, cafes, a movie theater and the Brisbane Eye, which is perfect for viewing the city lights in the evening. What’s more, regular theatre and performance events take place in the area, along with free fitness classes, children’s art workshops and open-air cinema showings. With stunning views across the river and onto Brisbane’s CBD, South Bank offers a selection of activities and some of the city’s best restaurant and bars.

While you’re there, don’t forget to visit:-

a). QAGOMA

The combined Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art is surely the jewel of the South Bank, if not Brisbane itself. Both galleries are housed in a single institution on the riverside, with a shared vision of being the leading institution for the contemporary art of Australia, Asia and the Pacific. Its collection comprises over 16,000 works of historical, modern and contemporary art, along with its supplementary programme of Australian and international exhibitions. The majority of exhibitions are free plus QAGOMA also has enough to entertain younger visitors too such as its permanent Children’s Art Centre which engages children with activities themed to coincide with current exhibits.

b). Nepalese Peace Pagoda

A relic of the World Expo ‘88 and now one of the South Bank’s most esteemed attractions, the Nepalese Pagoda was originally brought to Brisbane as the Kingdom of Nepal’s contribution to the Expo. The structure had been handcrafted over a two year period, using 80 tonnes of hard-carved Terai timber from the southern jungles of Nepal and employing the services of 160 Nepalese families. The Peace Pagoda now resides in the Southern Parklands, inviting quiet reflection and contemplation amidst the bustle of modern Brisbane.

c). The Arbour

The South Bank is an urban rambler’s dream with the Parklands and Cultural Precinct serving up a cornucopia of pleasing architecture and greenery. Both are wonderfully expressed in the Arbour, a kilometre-long pedestrian walkway connecting the Griffith Film School on the corner of Dock and Vulture Streets to the Cultural Forecourt and QPAC. The award-winning structure is comprised of 443 curling, galvanised steel posts, canopied over with eye-catching magenta bougainvillea flowers. A ribbon of yellow steel running through the structure fortunately makes the Arbour all-weather proof for walkers.

City’s Botanic Gardens

Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens are lush and tropical, thanks to the city’s warm climate. Positioned on the edge of the Brisbane River, the heritage-listed City Botanic Gardens, provide tranquillity next to Brisbane’s bustling CBD and include mature gardens with many rare and unusual botanic species. The Queensland Heritage Register describes the Gardens as:

The most significant, non-Aboriginal cultural landscape in Queensland, having a continuous horticultural history since 1828, without any significant loss of land area or change in use over that time. It remains the premier public park and recreational facility for the capital of Queensland, which role it has performed since the early 1840s.

New Farm Park Area

New Farm positively encourages an outdoor lifestyle, with tree-lined streets and unique spaces such as Brisbane Powerhouse and the heart of the suburb, New Farm Park. The park attracts visitors from all over with its perfect riverside picnic spots, cycling loops and tree house-style adventure playground. Nearby Teneriffe, once a farming area and industrial and commercial hub, has undergone an urban resurgence. Around the river’s bend, is greater Newstead, bursting with restaurants, bars and the iconic Newstead House. Now hit up James Street, which sits just a 10 minute stroll away. The veritable nerve centre of Brisbane’s shopping, loaded with outlets and high-street regulars, perfect for picking up Australia’s best in fashion, design and the latest trends. If you’re feeling peckish, the street also has plenty of restaurants and delis.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

We didn’t visit the sanctuary which was a big mistake as I didn’t get to see, let alone meet, any cuddly koalas.  Brisbane’s favourite native animal sanctuary, Lone Pine is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. Here you can meet more than 130 koalas, hand-feed kangaroos and encounter other Australian wildlife.

Brisbane CBD

Between the many heritage buildings, some of which have been repurposed, and sleek glass skyscrapers, Brisbane City is a veritable treasure trove of things to see and do. Plus, it’s so easy to explore everything on foot from busy shopping streets and arcades, through to chic high-end restaurants and laid-back laneway spots for a craft beer or two.

And don’t get me started on Brisbane’s delightful suburbs!

Places from our #adventuredownunder we’d visit again

If it’s difficult to whittle down the highlights of our vacation, it’s just as challenging to choose where we’d happily visit again. Our previous vacations in Australia had covered Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide but while we’d investigated much of South Australia and Victoria, there was still plenty for us to still see in New South Wales and we’d yet to visit Queensland. This vacation sought, in part, to remedy that oversight.

We’re unabashed urbanites who love living on the beach which is why we live near Nice on the Cote d’Azur. We never like to be too far from all the amenities. However, we’re not really beach people. I rarely sit on a beach though I do love walking along a sandy beach. I could spend hours looking at the sea and love being lulled to sleep by the sound of waves.

Given that my beloved has already driven pretty much of the length of Australia’s east coast, any further trips to this region will be by plane or train. And we’d certainly love to visit certain parts and places again. Our next trip to Australia is scheduled for winter 2021/22 and we want to take in Western Australia, particularly Perth and the Margaret river. So it remains to be seen how many more trips we’ll take to this wonderful country.

In no particular order, here’s the places we’d happily visit again and I’m going to let my photos do the talking for me.

Noosa

Byron Bay

Brisbane

Sydney

Wolgan Valley

Port Douglas

Inspired by The Blue Ducks

This cookery book in the header photo is what inspired our visit to Byron Bay. My beloved had bought me this in Farrells Bookshop in Mornington Peninsula back in 2016 because he’d liked the look of the recipes, many of which I’ve since made. With the company’s 10th anniversary fast approaching, I thought I’d write about one of my favourite restaurant concepts.

Since the first Three Blue Ducks venue opened in Bronte in 2010, they’ve expanded to four, café-turned-restaurants across New South Wales and Brisbane, plus one to come in Melbourne, each boasting a strong focus on ethical produce served in a no-frills setting.

The concept of Three Blue Ducks was sparked from an idea between Mark LaBrooy, Chris Sorrell and Sam Reid-Boquist, who shared a love of surf, snow and good food. In 2010, after years of discussion, the three mates found the perfect location in Bronte right next door to where Jeff Bennett had recently opened a pizza shop.

It wasn’t long before Bennett became friends with the boys next door and soon the wall between his pizza shop and Three Blue Ducks was knocked down and the four were in business together. As the venue got busier, they recruited Darren Robertson, former head chef at Tetsuya’s, to help expand the menu and open for dinner.

The group went on to open Three Blue Ducks at The Farm Byron Bay in 2015 (pictured above) and then Rosebery in 2016, with MasterChef Australia 2012 winner Andy Allen coming on board as a co-owner. This year they also opened a restaurant at the W hotel in Brisbane (desserts from our meal pictured below) and another one in Melbourne will soon open.

The common thread woven throughout the venues is a commitment to ethical food and supporting small farmers and producers,  something which I really try to embrace by buying local produce and ingredients from farmers markets and shopping seasonally. The Three Blue Ducks at The Farm, an 80-acre food and farming hub at the entrance to Byron Bay, is their biggest and busiest venue, and the true embodiment of their sustainability philosophy, where most of the restaurant is outside, surrounded by farmland, eating food grown metres away.

Celebrating the community and environment are core beliefs of the Ducks family. Even the name has a local element to it, though perhaps not in the way you might assume. It’s not a nursery rhyme. Instead, it’s a shout out to Bondi Boardriders team ‘Blue Ducks’, and, surprisingly, a 50-year-old pick up line Sam and Chris used as early teens in Bronte. The boys would try to get a girl alone at the beach and steal a kiss from her by asking if she’d seen the blue ducks that lived in the gully. So it’s a bit of a cheeky name!

What’s next for the Duck family? While there’s nothing yet in the works, there’s definitely potential to continue growing the brand – perhaps even internationally. As for a specific location, the boys have just one criterion: there must be surf or snow nearby. That’s not a bad requirement, is it?

Postcard from Brisbane V

Much as I love my better half, it’s sometimes nice to have time on my own. Friday morning I decided that my poor benighted feet deserved some pampering and booked a luxury pedicure and foot massage. It was sheer bliss – money well spent!

Afterwards I pottered around the CBD doing a spot of window shopping, door and building spotting before enjoying lunch at a restaurant in Queen’s Plaza, an upmarket shopping mall in the CBD. I strolled back up the hill to our hotel, admiring the historic properties littering Spring Hill.

It’s one of the oldest residential neighbourhoods in Brisbane, with many houses dating from 19th century, including quaint workers cottages and terrace houses, along with beautifully restored heritage-listed buildings. The Windmill in Wickham Park was built by convicts in 1827 and was one of Queensland’s first stone buildings. Of equal historical significance are the Spring Hill Baths, built in 1886, much updated and still in operation today.

While I enjoyed a quiet night in, my beloved went to a Gala Dinner over near the river in some renovated and repurposed buildings in Howard Smith Wharves, by Story Bridge. He managed to miss the speeches, though not the dinner, by inadvertantly gatecrashing a lawyers’ champagne reception in another part of the building!

Saturday was a day of total relaxation spent sunning myself around the pool in the hotel until my beloved returned, worn out from a hectic but successful exhibition – early night!

Sunday we enjoyed brunch at a restaurant over in Paddington, before heading out to view Mt Tamborine in what’s known as The Scenic Rim. Tamborine comes from the local Yugambeh language and may refer to the native fruit, finger lime. It’s a volcanic plateau about 550 metres (344 feet) above sea level and you can see for miles, even as far as the Gold Coast!

Narrow, verdant country roads meander around the mountains which are home to some lovely property porn and quaint villages with boutique wineries and an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. We drove around the area but could equally have visited the Tamborine National Park with its spectacular Falls probably best viewed from the elevated Tambourine Rainforest Skywalk – not for those of us who dislike heights – and the Botanical Gardens.

On Monday we enjoyed an early breakfast in the same restaurant I’d eaten lunch in on Friday before ambling along the Broadwalk which runs on the city side of the Brisbane River, walking all the way to New Farm, Newstead and Teneriffe: three adjacent areas fronting the Brisbane River, northeast of the CBD, that have been subject to significant, successful urban renewal.

These areas formerly played significant roles in the industrial life of Brisbane from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, with much of the activity clustered around the river which was an important transport corridor. Brisbane Gas Company’s gasworks opened in 1887 with the Colonial Sugar Refinery constructed in 1893. These were followed by timber yards, coal yards and wool stores which were disused and neglected 100 years’ later.

Many of these industrial buildings are now listed and have been beautifully renovated to “create sustainable livework communities in the inner city, revive local economies, deliver affordable housing and reverse the exodus of residents and businesses.”

Tuesday lunchtime I had arranged to meet with fellow blogger Lyn Douglas not far from where she works as a volunteer, over in New Farm. Lyn had just returned from what sounded like a really fabulous trip to North America, don’t forget to check out her blog for details. It was so lovely to meet with her and thank her for all the useful tips she’d provided me with while planning our stay in Brisbane.

Meeting Lyn in New Farm gave me an opportunity to further explore Fortitude Valley, particularly the shops over in James St, a tree covered promenade studded with jewel-like, largely upscale boutiques.

It’s just a two minute stroll from the heart of Fortitude Valley where we spent Wednesday morning and is without a doubt the place to be seen at one of the chic bars and cafes that line the street. In addition, the James Street Market has a fabulous selection of edible goodies.

James St is also home to an array of fashion and homeware retailers that has earned it a reputation as one of Brisbane’s most stylish strips. I was so taken with the area that I dragged my beloved back there that evening for dinner in a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant.

Wednesday and what do you know it’s time to move on to Mooloolaba. But before we said good bye to Brisbane we ate a leisurely lunch in nearby Paddington again. We’d had a wondeful time in Brisbane and if you want to know more about this city don’t forget to check out Brisbane resident Lyn’s blog (link above) and that of Sam, who spent time working in Brisbane. It’s a fabulous place and well worth an extended stay.

 

Postcard from Brisbane IV

Unbelievably, yesterday’s post only covered the morning of our second Wednesday In Brisbane. You may recall that the raison d’etre for our visit to this fair city was attendance at a major Dental Congress. We had to set up the company’s stand on this Wednesday afternoon, before the congress started the following day. Consequently, we headed over to the South Bank for lunch. I wanted to check out the restaurant I’d booked for a dinner my beloved was hosting on Thursday evening. It was easy to find and being Italian was sure to please everyone. Who doesn’t like pizza and pasta? Exactly!

Having walked all around the many restaurants, we decided to eat in a Middle Eastern one which is always great for my regime. Lunch over we headed to the exhibition centre to set everything up. This fortunately took next to no time leaving us plenty of time to further explore Brisbane’s 17-acre parkland on South Bank which was opened to the public in 1992 on the former site of World Expo 88.

South Bank’s promenade stretches along the Brisbane River, from the north to the south end of South Bank Parklands and up to Kangaroo Point. It includes the delightful Arbour, a kilometre-long steel canopy covered by neon pink and purple bougainvillea flowers. The award-winning structure is made up of 443 curling, galvanised steel posts.

We strolled along Clem Jones Promenade beside the river in the warm sunshine, visiting the Epicurious Garden filled with lots of lovely edibles and stopping to admire Streets Beach. Brisbane may not be on the coast but its year-round summer weather means it has a beach and swimming pools in South Bank which are free! Streets Beach provides a little hit of Paradise and a place to cool off for everyone.

There’s also an area of rain-forest within which is a relic of the World Expo ‘88 and now one of the South Bank’s most esteemed attractions. The Nepalese Peace Pagoda was originally brought to Brisbane as the Kingdom of Nepal’s contribution to the Expo. The structure had been handcrafted over a two year period, using 80 tonnes of hard-carved Terai timber from the southern jungles of Nepal and employing the services of 160 Nepalese families.

Of course, no modern playground is complete without a large ferris wheel. The Brisbane Wheel is  60-metre (197 ft) tall and was erected in August 2008 to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of  World Expo 88 and Queensland’s 150th Anniversary (1859-2009). It carries 42 gondolas on a 15-minute ride with panoramic views of the river and city. We passed on this delight.

Thursday morning we were up early and looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the exhibition. I lent my beloved a hand until lunchtime when reinforcements arrived. This liberated me to continue exploring South Bank, specifically The Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art where I happily whiled away the afternoon.

I much enjoyed two related but quite different exhibitions of artists whose work I’d never before seen. The first entitled “A Generous Life” celebrates the enduring legacy of much-loved Australian artist Margaret Olley (1923–2011). A short documentary revealed a fascinating and charismatic character, a widely recognised still-life and interior painter who drew inspiration from her home and the beauty of everyday objects. She was a significant benefactor to public institutions, and the subject of two Archibald Prize-winning portraits including one (above) painted by Ben Quilty (2011). This major exhibition profiles a life that was vigorously immersed in art — her own and that of those she supported.

The second featured the afore-mentioned Ben Quilty one of Australia’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, whose thickly painted landscapes and intimate portraits have garnered international acclaim. Exploring themes of masculinity and mortality, Quilty’s work is influenced by his experiences of Australian culture, political activism and his position as an official war artist. Working in a highly expressive style, he delves into the hidden psychologies of people and places through a bold application of paint to produce thought provoking pieces.

As anticipated, there were also many works from indigenous artists, and some from further afield, displayed in wonderful light-filled, airy spaces. Footsore but happy, I wandered back to our hotel clocking up another 16km (10 miles) in total for the day.

Postcard from Brisbane III

Our first week in Brisbane had been great fun and it fully justified us spending two weeks here to better appreciate the city and all it has to offer. The start of our second week (Wednesday) was a Bank Holiday in the CBD giving everyone an opportunity, like us, to visit EKKA. We decided to stroll down to the start of Fortitude Valley in the morning which was when we realised how close we were to EKKA’s showgrounds in the Bowen Hills – we could’ve walked there!

Fortitude Valley is Brisbane’s evening entertainment capital, yet we were going to visit it during the day when most of its shops and restaurants were closed. Why?  – because the area has an interesting history and some of those historical buildings are still standing.

Early European Settlement

In the mid-1840s a Presbyterian clergyman, John Dunmore Lang, promoted assisted immigration as a means of relieving Britain’s impoverished classes. Acting in the belief that the government had agreed to grant the emigrants free land, Lang arranged the first of three shiploads to come to Moreton Bay. The first vessel, the Fortitude, arrived at Brisbane in January 1849. The free land was refused, but the new arrivals were given permission to set up a temporary village which beacme known as ‘Fortitude Valley’.

Religion and Retailing

During the 1870s and 1880s a number of churches of different denominations were built, an extensive drainage scheme constructed and schools opened, though Brisbane’s first railway line (1882) skirted the Valley.

Horse-drawn trams offered the main means of access to the Valley from 1885. Fortitude Valley’s rising commercial importance was best signified by the Renaissance style post office built in Ann Street in 1887 and the growing number of significant retail establishments, all department stores. The new shopping area was above the 1890 flood level, in contrast to central and South Brisbane.

Fortitude Valley had churches, chapels, State and Catholic schools, Oddfellows’ and Foresters’ halls, a public swimming baths in Wickham Street, numerous villa residences on the suburb’s outskirts toward the river and, in the other direction, the elegant new headquarters for the Exhibition (1891).

Electric trams were introduced in the 1890s while the group of department stores maintained the Valley’s retail importance for decades. Importantly, beyond the retail centre, there were substantial factories and warehouses.

Dark Deeds in the Valley

In the 1950s major retail chains from Melbourne and Sydney began to take over Brisbane and Valley department stores. The Valley’s retail strength dissipated as the retail anchors were closed, exacerbated by the rise of drive-in shopping centres. The industrial sites were now too small for modern industrial and warehousing methods, though some premises became affordable as galleries and for semi-retail occupations. Local employment dried up as people were attracted to the outer suburbs. In the 1980s Fortitude Valley was caught between a faded past and an uncertain future.

Recovery

A number of Malls, including the Chinatown Mall (1987) capitalised on aspects of the Valley’s cultural tradition and it became a middle-ranking retail area, known for Asian cuisine, entertainment and a fading history of illegal casinos and unlicensed night clubs. There are now 25 registered heritage sites in Fortitude Valley spelling out a brighter future for the area.

We discovered a neighbourhood of careworn character buildings that are home to a sprinkling of top art galleries, funky eateries, cafes and bars and some of the best indie shopping in Brisbane. The following week I had an opportunity to further explore the area, from James St down to New Farm, this time while the shops and eateries were open.

Postcard from Brisbane II: #EKKA

As I mentioned in my previous postcard, we spent our first Tuesday in Brisbane at #EKKA. For those of you who don’t hail from Australia, the EKKA is Queensland’s largest and most loved annual event. It showcases the best of what the State has to offer from woodchopping to quilts to giant vegetables and, of course, loads of animals and a fairground rides, attracting over 400,000 visitors during its 10-day run. It’s apparently a rite of passge for Brisbanites and the show has been around since 1876, delighting countless generations.

Depending on where you live in Brisbane, Monday or Wednesday are Bank holidays granted specifically so you can visit the show. Yes, it’s that BIG. Of course, we just had to go and see what all the fuss was about. We went on Tuesday because we thought it might be less busy. I sensed it was but have no way of knowing. We decided to travel there and back by train but, as we later discovered, we could just have easily walked there.

We arrived shortly after the show had opened for the day and made an attempt to see most of the exhibits and stands though we swerved a few, including the Venemous Snake Show. I have never seen a snake on any of my visits to Australia and wasn’t about to start now. There’s also a huge funfair, popular with the kiddies, which we skirted around but otherwise we saw pretty much most of what EKKA had to offer and it really is as epic as the map above shows. It closes each evening with a fireworks’ display which we could see (and hear) from our hotel balcony.

It was a fun day out  and we certainly did more than our daily 10km wandering around checking out the various areas. My beloved was bitterly disappointed not to find the Queensland equivalent of the WI stand. Allegedly, their scones are awesome and he was keen to see whether or not that was the case but, try as we might, we couldn’t find it. Maybe they’re so good, the locals don’t want to share!

Any way, I’m going to let my photos, which feature lots of cute livestock, do the talking. These beauties were being groomed ready to be shown. Who knew there were so many varieties of cattle?

As you might imagine there were plenty of equine friends, some cuter than others.

There were a huge number of dogs on show, some of whom were being petted to death, others were looking for pats while some were just bored by the whole circus.

There were plenty of exhibits harking back to the show’s history.

But easily the busiest stand was was the animal nursery where you could pet and feed some of the animals. The sheep and goats were running around trying to find anyone with a cup of their favourite snacks. Those – yes, that’s me – who didn’t have any were shunned. These guys and gals are nobody’s fools.

Of course, some were too small to be petted or fed or had their own source of sustenance.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day out but I don’t think we’ll be visiting anything similar anytime soon.