Reflections on Brisbane

Some thoughts on Brisbane and Queensland in general, and some bits and pieces we missed in our last few blogs.

First, Chinatown. We strolled through yesterday and it was early in the morning but it was dead. I think we were the only ones on the street. The main street is all fairly new. Nicely done but it missed some of the seedyness that most “Chinatowns” of the world maintain. In my opinion the street level was missing the building interface that would allow for people oriented activity. There were things like offices and a parkade entrance instead of restaurants and stores selling herbal remedies, and grocery stores and, and, and. Maybe if we had gone in the evening it would be different. I hope so.

It is an unplanned day in Brisbane today but we manage to fill it up. We had planned to take the tram to Roma Street Parkland but once aboard we look at the map and decide to get off at the Central Station and take the free bus to the top of the park then walk downhill. I had read a little about the park so we thought it would be worth a visit. The park is grand. Lots of pathways wound and interlaced throughout a park on a very sloped piece of land.

Roma steer parklands

There are manicured gardens, a kids park, water works and waterways lacing with the walkways and at least an hours worth of exploring. In my opinion this is the nicest park we visited in Brisbane.

Roma street parklands

There are public washrooms throughout Brisbane and it seems Queensland for that matter. For the most part they are well maintained. I only ran into a single ‘gross’ one and that was in Noosa, the most upscale resort we visited. In Edmonton there are fewer and fewer of this type of facility. I don’t know if it is because they are expensive to maintain, if the public are too prissy to use public facilities or if our winters preclude plumbing without major infrastructure but if Queensland can provide such a service Alberta should be able to as well.

Brisbane public art

Brisbane has an amazing amount of public art. I know Edmonton has a mandated budget for art but here there is art everywhere you turn. You don’t have to like every thing presented but it does make for points of  interest in the urban landscape.

Brisbane public art

Brisbane public art

Street lighting in Queensland is minimal. Everything seems dark to me.

Street signs are random. Some corners there are signs indicating the names of both the intersecting streets. Sometimes the signs only tell you one of the streets assuming you should know the name of the busy street you are on. Other times I could not find any signs what so ever. This may be fine for the person that knows where they are and/or where they are going but for the tourist it is a pain. Yes, Debbie and I eventually found our ultimate goal but some of the journeys were a little circuitous.

Road direction signs on the highways and freeways could be a little better. A couple of times we were trying to follow a certain road and the signs indicated where the road we did not want to take went but gave us absolutely no indication where the road we wanted was. No highway number, no street name, nada.

One of the advantages of being in a climate where the temperature does not go below freezing is it allows for water to be included in everyday life. There is a plethera of drinking fountains and they are not your standard bowl with a bubbler on the edge. The design of the standard fountain has progressed a long way. There are some real cool renditions here and all along the Queensland coast. Waterways and fountains are everywhere. They are a big part of every green park and most of the urban hardsuface parks as well.

There is very little rubbish or trash on the streets. It is a city of 2 or 3 million people and the streets are basically spotless. Edmonton is a clean city but it has to improve a bunch to match here.

It’s lunch time and the Queen Street mall is packed. Up till the twelve o’clock bell we had most of the street to ourselves. Noon arrives, I turn around look up the street it is wall to wall humanity.

Most of that humanity is conjenial and friendly. We stopped folks on the street and asked for help, they answered our question and continued to chat, store clerks are all interested in where we are from and what we are up to in Aus, everyone seems to have the time of day and is willing to help us out.

If you are on a budget, Brisbane is a place you can keep yourself occupied for a few days without spending a penny. There are two free bus routes traversing different areas of downtown. We rode one thinking it would be a good way to see a few things but felt it is  really only transportation. Both the modern art gallerey and the Queensland art gallery are free and can take up quite a few hours. The river ferry, CityHopper, costs nothing and it provides a different and wonderful view of much of the city, well worth the time spent. All the parks including the Botanic Gardens in Queen’s Park, and the Roma Street Park are free.

The river plays a big part of the fabric of Brisbane. Winding through the city quite similar to our home town Edmonton. I don’t know if anyone has ever said this but I might nickname Brisbane, ‘The City of Bridges’. No matter where you are in the downtown area you can see at least one bridge.

City Hall

City Hall

Our unplanned day progressed quite well. We walked a few more areas we have not covered and ended up sitting on the Queens Street pedestrian mall watching the world pass by.

We do have some packing so we think it might be a good idea to head back to the hotel early and get that done. By some weird twist of fate we turned the corner and headed south when in fact the tram station was north of our location. As we were about to exit the pedestrian part of the mall and enter the regular street grid. A busker’s voice caught my attention. I stopped a few meters away and Debbie and I talk about how the busker sounded like someone we are familiar with. We queued up to cross the street and I had this odd feeling we should take a flyer and buy one of the CDs this fellow had for sale. I returned to where he was standing and started to read a couple of the signs he had propped up against wall when I noted the name on the CDs. Babar Luck. Damn, no wonder his voice is so familiar, we have one of his CDs. Right in the middle of a song I interrupt him asking if he is indeed Babar Luck. He is.

Babar Luck

Babar Luck

This is truly one of those weird moments in life. I had been looking for one of his albums for a couple of years and now here it is laying on the jacket of the man himself as he stands on a street corner singing for coins in Brisbane, Australia. The three of us chat for about 1/2 hour. I end up buying the CD I have been hunting for and the other one he has on display as well. He autographs them both. For some reason I encounter more than my fair share of these moments, maybe it is luck, and maybe it is the way I go about living but I will embrace everyone that comes my way. To me the half hour we spend on the street talking to this fellow is the pearl of an outstanding day.

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