To those of you who clicked on this blog's link in search of a Crocodile Dundee themed porn, my apologies for misleading you. The only boomerangs in this post are ones that are painted by aboriginals. But now that you're here, why don't you stay awhile? You're clearly interested in the Land Down Under, so you might as well learn a few things about the place, like where to eat, what to see, and drinks to try.
Australia has always been near the top of my travel bucket list, and I was fortunate enough last month to check that box in an epic way. Elliot was able to reason with Mayor McCheese and Ronald that his Australian work trip should be scheduled for the second week in April...aka my spring break. I finally got to toss my Haus Frau persona aside and tag along on an Elliot work jaunt across the world. In typical Courtney fashion, I researched the hell out of Brisbane and Sydney, downloaded city apps (which I didn't end up using), and created personalized travel guides to keep me busy while Elliot worked. Feel free to use my guides. Please keep in mind that they were created prior to my actual trip, so we may not have done all things listed:
Brisbane: Brisbane Travel Guide
Sydney: Sydney Travel Guide
Chapter 1: Getting To Australia
Before I could start saying, "THIS is a knife" to locals, I needed to conquer that four hour flight to LA and 14 hour flight to Brisbane. I lugged my giant suitcase to work on Thursday, April 2nd and one of my coworkers kindly drove me out to O'Hare. The flight to LA was hot and crowded, and I sat between a young kid who kept farting in his sleep and a friendly Aussie man who shared some ideas for things to see in Brisbane, like a Brisbane Lions Australian football match. I wanted to giggle in delight when he said, "If you enjoy sport" (singular) because I encountered my first Aussie'ism! I also got my first faux pas out of the way when I said, "...and I was reading that I should try that XXX brewery!" To his credit, he only slightly chuckled before correcting me that there are FOUR X's in that particular brewery's name. A XXX brewery is probably right up the alley of anyone who visited this blog in search of porn.
Once in LA, I marveled over all the straw hats and had a late night quinoa and kale salad at James Beach Bar in LAX. I struck up a conversation with an older couple from Naperville that was on their way to a Holland America cruise of Australia and New Zealand. The woman was basically me thirty years from now, as she was a retired high school Humanities teacher. When she found out that I was a teacher in the city, she clutched my hands and thanked me for my service. That gave me a case of the warm and fuzzies...or maybe that was the IPA I had with my salad.
After taking a shuttle to our gigantic Qantas plane, I settled into my window seat towards the back and prepped myself for my tiny home for the next 14 hours. Since it was late, and I was already tired, I fell asleep almost immediately. The back of the plane was pretty empty, and no one sat between me and an older American gentleman (which we acknowledged to each other was AWESOME). When I woke up two hours later, it was just in time for a midnight Kit-Kat bar, but I noticed that the guy sitting on the aisle was now some young guy in plaid. I shrugged, took down that Kit-Kat in one fell swoop, and fell back asleep. I woke up four hours later to a young girl now sitting in the aisle seat. Confused, and slightly thinking that someone was fucking with me, I (probably to her) made a stink face and then fell back asleep. When I woke up again for breakfast, no one was sitting there. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, only the goblin was in the aisle seat not out the window. At least there wasn't a colonial woman on the wing.
I woke up in time for a hot breakfast of eggs, a cinnamon apple muffin, mushrooms, grilled tomato, hash brown, yogurt with fruit compote, and coffee. I didn't eat the included bacon and sausage link because it was still technically Good Friday.I got to squeal inside when I heard the flight attendant say another Aussie'ism: an up-speak "Yeah?" at the end of every phrase. It's like an Australian version of "Eh?" I cozied up in my seat after breakfast and watched Wild with Reese Witherspoon for the remainder of the flight. As I saw Australia below the wing of my plane, I started to get more and more excited.
When we landed, it was 7:30am on Saturday and I felt GREAT for having just been in a plane for 18 total hours. It took about an hour to get my baggage and go through customs before meeting Elliot outside the customs area. Customs were kind of crazy and disappointing because everything was electronic, and I didn't get to have my passport stamped. That would've been a cool addition :(
Chapter 2: I've Got Koala Krap in my Karpus
My first thoughts of Australia were that it was tropical like Florida, yet still felt very European. The signage and toilets (without a Southern Hemisphere backwards swirling) reminded me of time in Europe. I guess that makes sense given Australia's imperial takeover in the 1700's. The thing that really blew my mind was getting into the rental car on the LEFT side of the car and not driving. I made fun of Elliot for driving on the left side of the road, despite the fact that if I were forced to drive on the left side I would have peed my pants before crashing the car.
We made our way (without crashing or pee) to our hotel, Mantra, in the heart of Brisbane's South Bank neighborhood, and I got my things settled in our room before taking a snooze and shower. We had the "brekkie" (aka breakfast) buffet that was included with our room, and it consisted of pretty standard English breakfast fare: sausage, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, and breads. I was disappointed that there weren't any hot cross buns, as I had read they were one of the more popular sweets (and recorder songs) in Australia.
After breakfast, we decided to make the most of my first day there by driving over to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I was really looking forward to visiting, as I had read that it was the "world's largest" koala sanctuary. My knowledge of koalas doesn't extend much past episodes of The Noozles, so I was pretty jazzed to see one up close and personal. Besides koalas, the LPKS boasts an impressive gathering of other native Australian animals, including an open field where there were almost a hundred kangaroos just chilling on the ground. The sanctuary is set up like a zoo, so we wandered around, taking pictures of wombats, kookaburras, Tasmanian devils, flying foxes, dingoes, crocodiles, a fast as fuck duck-billed platypus, and a goofy bird called a galah that Australians use as an insult. Later in the trip, one of Elliot's Australian colleagues uttered the gem, "How can I soar like an eagle when I'm surrounded by fucking galahs?"
Besides the menagerie just described, Lone Pine has plenty of koalas scattered throughout the zoo. Surprisingly, most of them were awake and munching on their eucalyptus, a seemingly rare occurrence since these animals sleep an average of 18 hours a day. El and I got in line to take a picture of us holding a koala. We waited for over thirty minutes because the handlers had to keep switching out koalas, presumably because they were past their bedtimes. When it was finally our turn to take the picture, it was decided that I would be the one to hold our furry photo prop, Hugo. His handler started talking about how to hold Hugo, but I was only half-listening. I was paying more attention to the marble turds that were rolling down his zookeeper shirt. Hugo seemed to be mocking me, sending me some serious "Just wait for what's to come" vibes with his dark eyes. I finally snapped back to life when Hugo's handler stacked my hands, palms up, on top of each other. I nervously said, "Uh, I think he's pooping" (yes, I actually used the word pooping), to which zoo man replied, "It's okay; it'll just roll right off you." Thanks, guy; comforting. A few seconds later, I had a koala anus nestled firmly on my palm. I was briefly distracted from his bowel movement, however, by Hugo's unexpected heft and sharp claws digging in to my bare arm. The Lone Pine photographer called for our attention, and I ignored the pain in favor of a great photo souvenir.
While Elliot was obliviously smiling for the camera, I started feeling something pulsating in my hand. Horrified, I realized that I was about to have a handful of koala not-so-yummies. Despite my mask of content for the camera, inside I panicked. The last thing I wanted was to be baptized into Australian culture with fertilizer, so I did the only logical thing: I started pushing back. For a good ten seconds, while the photographer took some more pictures, Hugo and I were engaged in the Battle of the Bulge. Hugo learned that a koala rectum is no match for Courtney's metacarpus. On the surface, I appeared delighted to be holding this cute, fuzzy koala. Inside, all I wanted to do was toss Hugo like a corn hole bag after he subjected me to his corn hole. I figured it might be some sort of hate crime to punt an Australian national animal, so I settled for hurriedly handing Hugo back to his human mate. Thank goodness for the hand sanitizer nearby.
After having my hand violated, El and I strolled through the grassy kangaroo area where we saw a number of small brown and grey kangaroos laying on the ground and hopping. There was kangaroo krap everywhere, so one had to step gingerly around the area. After picking up our official picture, we made our way back to our hotel to drop off our souvenirs. We walked down Grey St. to the Charming Squire, a James Squire pub that had a big open-air beer garden. Even though it was a Saturday, Happy Hour was in full swing, and the tables were already crowded with people enjoying their holiday weekend. El had been to the Squire the day before with a coworker, and he recommended One Fifty Lashes. It was an American pale ale and was my introduction to Australia's craft beer scene, of which I would learn much during my trip. Elliot and I talked about how Australia had yet to embrace heavy-handed hops like America, but that they seemed well on their way to becoming a world contender for best craft beer.
After a snack of pork skewers with yogurt (it was still technically Lent, and I couldn't yet eat fried food), we took an expensive bus ride ($4 one way per person!) to the Tenerife neighborhood of Brisbane in search of the Green Beacon Brewery. Located in an industrial neighborhood, Green Beacon is just a block or two away from the wharf. Its space reminded me a bit of Blue Jacket's space in DC (which carries one of my favorite sour beers, the Wallflower) yet with an open-air front. There were already plenty of people hanging out, and a number of interesting beers from which to choose. I settled on the Windjammer IPA and El tried a 3 Bolt. We munched on some kalamata olives and talked while Elliot checked in on Untappd. While logging his beers, a local guy at a brewery around the corner friended him. We didn't realize there was ANOTHER one literally right around the corner, so we finished up our drinks and walked over to the Newstead Brewing Company. Like Green Beacon, it was packed to the gills with Aussies enjoying their Saturday night. A particularly raucous stag party arrived with the groom in a pink costume and blonde wig, so they provided some entertainment for a spell. While at Newstead, we both had the Saison which had a very heavy barley flavor. We started getting a little tired at this point, so El used his work phone's data to get us an Uber back to South Bank.
South Bank Brisbane is very Miami Beach esque with mile long streets that are lined along the river with bars, pubs, shops, and clubs. Unlike Miami Beach, there aren't as many hosts/hostesses standing outside trying to entice tourists to enter, which was refreshing. We were still a little bit hungry, so we stopped at a place called Hop & Pickle and ordered this buffalo flavored brisket with blue cheese dipping sauce. It was really flavorful, and we washed it down with what turned out to be beers from the brewery we were just at, Newstead. At least we tried something different this time, the 2 Valley IPA. In all honestly, it wasn't that great of a beer, and we didn't even finish it; it was like a rookie brewer's first attempt at brewing. We walked back to our hotel after we finished eating and fell into a heavy sleep.
Chapter 3: Exploring Brisbane
I woke up once at 3am, but I forced myself to go back to sleep to get on an Australian sleep cycle. We woke up at 8:30 for a 10:00 Easter mass at St. Stephen's Cathedral in the Central Business District (CBD to the locals) and had a light breakfast at the hotel before driving over to the church. The area in which the cathedral is located is like the Rodeo Drive of Brisbane, chock full of those stores us normal folks can't afford like Gucci and Chanel. When we got to church, it was standing room only, and we barely had any place to squeeze into in the back. We arrived during what seemed to be an "In a Gadda Da Vida"esque organ solo. Standing in 80 degree heat with comically long organ music was not the best scenario for two people slightly hungover. We made the best of the discomfort by fanning ourselves with programs and leaning against the cool marble of the building. It was a beautiful space, with classic Gothic vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. The cathedral itself was surrounded by palm trees and seemed to be an oasis in the middle of a busy downtown area.
After mass, we walked around the CDB's ped mall, the Queen Street Mall, and stopped to watch the Wisconsin/UK game at an outdoor bar called Pig & Whistle while munching on some french fries (chips) and sipping Cokes. It was a hot day, so that sweet nectar hit the spot. Later we passed by a plaque that indicated the MacArthur Museum was located there, but when we tried to enter we found out that it was closed for the holiday. Unfortunately for El, the museum was only open on days that he would be working. I, however, made a mental note to return on their next open day, Tuesday.
After changing back at the hotel into more casual attire, we walked to Brisbane's West End neighborhood to get lunch at the Lonely Planet recommended Gunshop Cafe. We made it just in time for brunch, and I had avocado on toast with roasted tomato, goat cheese, arugula, olive oil, and something called quark. It came with a feta (spelled fetta in Australia) and potato hash cake that tasted as good as it sounds. El munched on a sweet potato hash cake with sausage, tomato sauce, and a poached egg. Washed down with an iced coffee, the food was the perfect thing to put the nail in our earlier hangover.
We strolled through the streets of West End and did a quick walk through a pop-up market. There were stalls that boasted antiques, souvenirs, and a sign that claimed all their wares came from "the Village of Africa". Sorry Africa, you got downgraded from a continent to a village. We stopped at another Lonely Planet recommended joint, the Archive Beer Boutique that reminded us of any hipster bar you can find in Chicago. The walls are covered in graphic novel pages, their beer list was vast, and the bar was made out of books. BOOKS!!!! It definitely gave me an idea for our next house project. I ordered a Kiwi Bastard by Four Pines that hit the spot, and El tried a Juniper Killer Sprocket.
After doing some more strutting, we made our way back to the CBD where there was what I can best describe as an open-air suitcase market. People were crowded in the square right on the river hawking stuff that they had schlepped in their suitcases. We bypassed the market (because who wants someone's suitcase shit?) in search of an Aboriginal Art Museum. I'd been excited to learn more about the Aboriginal people, but to our dismay the one that was mentioned online had closed. Sigh, erased once again :/ We were, however, able to enjoy SOME aboriginal art and photos in the Brisbane Museum that was in City Hall. They had a big exhibit about the history of the Brisbane River and some random exhibit of old Hollywood glamour gowns. The museum was interesting, but small, and didn't take us much time to walk through it. We were jazzed to get the last pair of tickets to go on the "guided" clock tower tour. We had an hour to kill before our designated time, so we hoofed it up a hill to the Old Windmill, built by convicts and Brisbane's oldest surviving structure. We basically looked at each other, said "Well, there it is". Not the most fascinating building you can visit in Brizzy. We felt obligated to take pictures and then schlepped back down to City Hall for our guided tour. When we walked into the building, there was a group of girls dressed in Disney princess costumes lying on their backs with their heads in a circle like they were the spokes of a wheel. Some guy was standing on the staircase above taking pictures, and I hadn't the foggiest idea what the hell they were doing. Despite my curiosity, I didn't want to be a part of their world.
The clock tour proved to be underwhelming, as it was just a trip up an elevator to some platform that overlooked the city. Online reviews hailed this area as having breathtaking views, but all we could see were high rise buildings. Not exactly panty droppers. The only cool thing about it was the fact that these huge clocks were set in sync with a grandfather clock on the back wall. Other than that, the "tour" was a bust. After our "womp womp" of a tour, we walked back over to South Bank and strolled along the river. The Parklands in South Bank consist of beautiful tree and flower-lined pathways that shade the walkways along the riverbank. The manmade beach (that's chlorinated) was packed at this point with families and people enjoying their friends. The bars nearby were also packed, and you could hear live music playing in the supposedly haunted Plough Inn.
We decided to take advantage of the beautiful evening and went in the hot tub at our hotel. It was kind of awkward as we approached the hot tub, because we got the stink eye from two couples already occupying it. It was like we had wrecked their secret orgy plans. Sorry, mates! Make way for the Brousi! Doing like we do, we made conversation with each other while eavesdropping on them to find out their deal. We surmised that the couple to our left was engaged and apparently studying abroad in Australia. The other couple was where our fascination lay. They didn't seem to be older than 16, and the girl was straddling the boy's lap like a pro. It became clear that he was on a family trip because his dad came down to get the room key from him. Elliot and I then thought it was a girlfriend who had joined a family trip. It got further interesting when the girl asked him, "Who was that?" Clearly, she wasn't on the trip with them. Daddio also gave her the side-eye like she was a tart. When the boy responded that it was his dad, she said, "He seems nice." Yeah, okay. He was down there for two seconds, and you didn't talk to him. Busted. After they left, Elliot and I were trying to figure out their deal. Did he meet this chick on a family trip and then have her come to his hotel's hot tub with him? Did he pay her? If so, what the hell????
After trying to psychoanalyze complete strangers, we cleaned up before heading across the street to San Kai Japanese Restaurant for dinner. We dined semi-al fresco on chicken teriyaki with ginger, salad, tuna and yellow tail sashimi, chicken fried rice, and udon noodles with beef and veggies. Washed down with an Australian chardonnay, it was a satisfying end to a busy day. We (meaning I) got ice cream and walked down restaurant row (as I dubbed it) before calling it an early night at 8:45. Yes, 8:45.
Chapter 4: Surf's Up
We woke up early the next morning to get in a workout before driving down to the Gold Coast. It took us an hour and some change, and we stopped at a gas station to get snacks and waters for the beach. We had our first experience with the friendliness of Aussies, as the attendant was more than helpful with making sure we were hooked up with munchies. She seemed genuinely happy that we were visiting her country, and that the weather would be perfect for us. More than one person had recommended trying Tim Tam cookies (aka chocolate biscuits), so I made sure to get some at the gas station.
There are two famous "coasts" near Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast to the north and the Gold Coast to the south. Both are roughly 45 minutes to an hour away by car and boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Elliot had gone down to Gold Coast City and the famous Surfer's Paradise Beach with some of his coworkers before I arrived and said that the beaches were absolutely stunning: turquoise and deep blue water, powdery sand, and beautiful rock formations. There are tons of beaches from which to choose, and we ultimately decided on Currumbin Beach. We read that it wasn't quite as Miami Beach-raucous as the beaches closer to Gold Coast city. We were looking for a chill place to just stretch out, get some Vitamin D and enjoy the warm fall weather. Currumbin Beach also had a nearby animal sanctuary and rainforest that sounded interesting, so we drove a little further south to reach our paradise. The neighborhood houses by the beach are practically on the water, so parking was tricky. We decided to make it easy on ourselves and just paid to park in the animal sanctuary lot; it would also benefit us if we decided to visit it later that day.
After a short walk to the beach, we set up our stuff on the soft, light gold, sand and watched the surfers already at the ends of their daily runs. The waves breaking on the nearby rocks and the rising sun made for a pretty incredible first impression. The sunlight also starkly revealed that everyone in the Gold Coast is ridiculously fit and tan. There were these young, hot couples with three kids, and they looked like they had just posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Considering Elliot and I reflect light off our pale bodies, it was a bit intimidating. Regardless, we weren't there to impress anyone. The beach wasn't very crowded, and we had plenty of space to lie out in the sand and get some sun. The weather was perfect for the day, yet despite our diligence with applying Aussie made sunscreen (we weren't taking any chances with the Australian sun) at various intervals, I still ended up with the most bizarre sunburn of my life. The tops of my hands and feet were bright red, and I had these red splotches all over my neck and chest. It looked like I was having an allergic reaction after wrestling with Sebastian. Not my best look. After reading for while, jumping into the waves and swimming in the temperate water, we took a walk along the beach and took in the scenery. The walk was very peaceful, and gave us one of those "Oh, I could definitely live here" types of feelings. Damn you, Australia, for not being closer to the US!
We climbed the lookout rock of the Curummbin Beach Life Saving Patrol, on which was located a pretty hopping beach restaurant, and took a thousand pictures before heading back to the car. Exhausted from being in the sun all morning and swimming on the OTHER side of the Pacific (I was excited that I'd swum on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific), we decided to head back to Brisbane. On our return, we drove along the coast and through Surfer's Paradise and Mermaid Beach. Surfer's Paradise in particular was very much like Miami Beach, as it's nothing but vacation rentals, bars, tourist traps, restaurants, and surf shops. A festival was going on, so we passed through instead of stopping for lunch. The next closest stop was this shopping center, and we each got a schwarma from a guy who said he used to live in Hoffman Estates. People are so funny when it comes to accents, especially when the accent is from so far away. It was our experience that when Aussies heard our American accents, they were simultaneously delighted and curious about where we were from. I felt like a rock star.
The drive back provided us with another opportunity to listen to Aussie radio. Between radio contests and advertisements (ad-ver-tiss-ments) for Hungry Jack's and Macca's, they repeatedly played Rihanna's new song and this one by Kendrick Lamar called King Kunta. When I say that it was on every time we got into the car, it's not hyperbole. It's a catchy jam but not the most clever, lyrics wise. The video also looks like a "music video" one of my old students "produced" when he was in 6th grade.
After cleaning up back at the hotel, we walked a mile and a half to the Brisbane neighborhood of Milton in search of (yet) another craft beer bar, The Scratch. Elliot found it on Untappd, and it definitely didn't disappoint. The walls were made of slate and decorated with chalk drawings and writings. It was a slightly darkened atmosphere, and there were groups of friends laughing and trying their numerous beers. I had a Noisy Minor ANZUS IPA followed by a Wombat Heffeweizen, and El had a beer from Western Australia and one from the bartender's home brewed batch. While we were hanging out, a movie called "Champions" started to be projected onto one of the walls. As the beginning of the movie played, Elliot and I looked at each other because it looked awfully familiar. When Emilio Estevez appeared on screen as an adult Gordon Bombay, we realized that we were watching none other than Mighty Ducks. That sparked a conversation with the bartenders about how movies have different titles in different countries. He said that the sequel for Champions is called Mighty Ducks, which for us is called D2. I can understand the change due to different languages, but we speak the same one as Australians. Very odd.
We didn't stay to figure out if there were any other differences between the two movies, instead electing to walk to the popular, nearby Caxton Street to continue our beer tour of Australia. We walked past Suncorp Stadium, the home of a variety of Australian sports and concert events. We felt slightly like fat kids as we passed, because there were these two fit girls doing lunges in the parking lot. That's probably why Australians are bizarrely fit; they don't go on beer tours on Monday nights...
We refused to be ashamed of our vacation choices, so we ventured to a bar called Brewski's. We ordered some BBQ wings (that were grilled...gross) that were underwhelming and beer-battered fries that were 2 for 1 that satiated our growing hunger. Caxton St. was pretty quiet, but the party was just getting started inside Brewski's. Teenage Dirtbag came on, and I excitedly tweeted at Roche from DC101 that the OG of the Doo Doo Time Spectacular was playing a hemisphere away. My excitement reached its pinnacle a few minutes later, when Land Down Under came on. I had been listening to that song practically on repeat in growing excitement for our trip, but I didn't think I'd hear it at all once we were down there. I've never been so happy to be wrong. Almost immediately after the first few didgeridoo chords played, both bartenders stopped what they were doing to sing and dance along with their national jam. It was the most cliche Australian thing ever, and I felt like I was spying on animals in their natural habitat. I wanted to take a video so badly, but I don't think that would bode well for America's reputation of being all up in other people's business. As a consolation prize, here's the Men at Work video. Enjoy the guy in the one-shouldered bathing suit.
Chapter 5: Getting Locked Up
The next morning was the first that I would be on my own, as Elliot had to go back to work. Determined not to gain weight on this trip, I made a point of working out every morning, despite the pain of putting sneakers on my lobster feet. My previously booked tour at Boggo Road Gaol wasn't until 11, so after a quick breakfast downstairs, I decided to pass the time window shopping in the CBD. I had read that the best place to get Australian coffee was at a hipstery coffee shop called Brew, so I ventured out in search of a good flat white. After wandering around confused for a good fifteen minutes, I finally found it down an alley in this subterranean location. If there was a dictionary entry for hipster, a picture of Brew would be next to it. In terms of coffeeshops, that's a compliment. Hipsters know their coffee, yo. The barista was really nice and was able to give me some advice on the best way to get to Boggo Road Gaol. I also learned that Gaol is pronounced "jail" not "gowl" like I had been saying. American faux pas #2 on my part.
I took the 66 University of Queensland bus route from the King George Station to the gaol and met the rest of the group outside the gate. A light rain had just begun, but it cleared up relatively quickly. There were a ton of restrictions for going on the tour, including multiple reminders about not bringing alcohol (they must've had some stag parties show up sloshed), closed-toed shoes were a necessity, there were no toilets available, you couldn't bring a pen, touch anything, or "shine camera lights in people's eyes". That last one is an exact quote. I guess that was also a problem at one time.
As I summed up our group, I noticed that almost every single person was wearing a straw, wide-brimmed hat. Australians actually wear those things! All of my cliches were coming true, and I couldn't be happier about it. Everyone besides myself was Australian, and one of the kids was wearing a Washington Capitals t-shirt. When I went up to him with my hand raised for a high-five and asked him if he liked the Caps, he just looked at me before walking away. Score one for the creepy lady.
Daniel, our pony-tailed guide, met us outside the gate and instantly won me over when he commented on how the asymmetry of the gate's sign bothered him. A man after my OCD heart. He explained how Boggo Road was originally a women's prison and opened during the Victorian age of Australia. He took us through the cellblocks and yards, giving us interesting gaol history anecdotes, like about the bell that signaled dinner and executions being from a ship that held convicts. Daniel walked us past the barbaric open-air cages in which they used to hold convicts, the steel buckets that the prisoners used as nighttime toilets, and the bolted doors in the cell blocks. He told us about the numerous escape attempts by Slim Halladay and all about the protests with prisoners who climbed the roof of the gaol. I learned that, throughout the history of the gaol, the inmates made license plates, cloth, and gardened to create a sustainable economy within the prison walls. I also learned that certain trusted prisoners were allowed to hold special jobs like barbers, cooks, and gardeners. None of whom was Sweeney Todd.
The tour lasted 90 minutes, and I walked away with all sorts of interesting facts about Boggo Road Gaol. I was disappointed to hear that the city was trying to shut down the tours and tear down the gaol. In typical money-minded fashion, it was trying to make room for further developments like bars and restaurants. It's a shame when history is sacrificed for the sake of making a profit. For more information on the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society, check out their page here.
I figured out how to take the bus back to the CBD (all by myself!) and tried to find a place for lunch. After looking at the prices of nearby restaurants, I decided to save the $26 Australian I would've spent on a chicken caesar sandwich (Australia's expensive, mate) and just get some fast food at the Hungry Jack's in Queen Street Mall. Hungry Jack's is basically Burger King, and the story behind its creation is kind of absurd and worth a look. I decided to get something called a chicken royal with bacon and avocado and a small thing of fries. There was no ketchup, or tomato sauce as the Aussies call it, so I got a container of spicy sauce for my fries. One bite into that chicken royal, and I wished that I had gone with the $26 sandwich. The bacon, much like European "bacon", was more like ham, and the avocado tasted like B.O.; that is, if B.O. had a taste.
After finishing my typical Burger King meal, I walked through the Tattersall's Arcade, an underwhelming shopping center where everything cost more than my flight to this continent. It was recommended in my guide on the Queen Street Mall stops in the CBD, but that must be geared towards people who have opulence. I do not has it. I strolled through some fashion boutiques that were nearby, as they were having their "end of summer sale". I didn't end up finding anything that caught my eye, which was a shame because I wouldn't say no to summer sale clothes BEFORE it was summer for me.
Chapter 6: Going Back in Time
After window shopping, I made my way back to the MacArthur Museum that El and I had stopped at that previous Sunday. It was randomly located in some hotel, and I needed to be "buzzed" up the elevator by an adorable, elderly volunteer. The museum is entirely staffed by volunteers who were extremely friendly and gave me my "clearance card" to enter the high-security area. The museum was about Brisbane's role in WWII, and the various austerity measures its residents had to undergo for the war effort. The exhibits were fascinating and detailed everything from the impact of the American GI's arriving in Australia to how Vegemite was rationed to the numerous "war brides" that came about because of the war. In addition to the numerous displays, I also got to see the table on which MacArthur and his staff strategized and the office where MacArthur ran the Allied Forces in the Pacific.
I walked through the entire museum and soaked in as much historical information as possible. I filled out a comment card praising the museum and friendliness of the staff and received, again from the friendly volunteers, a guide to all the heritage sites around Brisbane. I exchanged pleasantries with an older American couple who had just arrived in the country before heading back to the CBD to do some souvenir shopping. I spent a good thirty minutes in a large shop and was able to get all my souvenirs in one place, including, but not limited to, a didgeridoo for my dad.
I walked back over the Victoria Bridge to the Queensland Museum with my bags of souvenirs and looked at exhibits on Ancient Queensland, the animals along the coral coast like turtles, giant squid and crocodiles, three Australians who won the Victoria Cross in WWI, and a cool exhibit on Australia during the Triassic and Jurassic periods. I learned all about the "lost" creatures of that period and how Australia was initially fused with India, Africa, Antarctica, and South America. Mind blown. The Queensland Museum also had fascinating exhibits on the natural resources of the state. I was particularly interested in the room devoted to the clothing, hunting patterns, food, ceremony, history, music, art, and languages of the various Aboriginal people, in particular the Dadiiri Maiwar and Torres Strait Islanders. It was really interesting to read about the indigenous peoples of the continent, as that was a topic about which I wanted to learn more while I was in Australia.
After walking almost 20,000 steps in half the day, I went back to the hotel to relax before Elliot got home from work. We were both pretty beat, so we decided to find a restaurant on the nearby "restaurant row". We settled on an Argentinian place called Che Asado, which had decent food but mediocre service. That may have been due to tipping not being common in Australia, but this place was particularly bad. Regardless, we still enjoyed the warm breezes of dining al fresco in addition to a sweet New Zealand wine, a good heirloom, tomato, and mozzarella salad, and chips with sea salt. I also had some tasteless pan-fried chicken, and El topped his meal off with a chorizo skewer. I was still pretty hungry after dinner, so we stopped at an ice cream shop (again for me) for some cookies 'n cream in a waffle cone before heading back to Mantra to relax before bed.
Chapter 7: The Peak of Success
The next morning, I again went to the gym and had a quick breakfast before walking over to the Cultural Center (by the Queensland Museum) to catch a bus to Mt. Coot-tha for a hike. I had a vague sense of where I was going, but I decided to ask the bus driver for the exact stop. The second I started talking, and she heard my American accent, her ears perked up and she started rolling off directions. She repeatedly called me darling and would announce at every stop, "Yours is only (however many left) stops away, darling!" for me. She was beyond friendly and again confirmed my observation that Australians love American accents just as much as Americans love Australian accents.
I switched buses once to get on the 471, which took us through hilled neighborhoods that led to the Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens. Mt. Coot-tha is the highest peak in Brisbane and offers views over the entire Queensland coast and surrounding islands. I was determined to do some outdoorsy stuff while in Australia, and Mt. Coot-tha had guided hikes that met periodically throughout the day. From what I could gather, it was best to get off at the Botanical Gardens stop to get to the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area, the starting point for the trek up the mountain.
When I got off the bus, I was informed by the gardens staff that I should've stayed on the bus, as the picnic area was further up the road. The bus only came once an hour, so I had to walk on the main road straight uphill towards the picnic area. I cursed working out in the morning, and somehow schlepped myself up that 45 degree angle. I reached the start of the trail, right at the forest entrance, and joined the group of hikers who were looking to head to the mountain's peak. The "guided" part of the tour wasn't informational at all; it was more of a "let's all hike together so we won't get ax-murdered" type of thing. There were a number of women and young families taking walks, and the group dwindled with the increase in elevation. Small creeks and shaded areas dotted the trail, so the families broke off and had picnics and let their kids fish with nets in the different ponds and creeks.
The entire trail was uphill yet shaded, so it wasn't as brutal as could be imagined. A few of us decided to branch off onto the Aboriginal Art Trail, another uphill and moderately difficult trek through the woods. It was of interest because the guide said there were examples of Aboriginal art that dotted the trail. I was expecting rock and tree paintings, but there were really only a few rock formations and small plaques that constituted the "art". Although the trail was pretty with leaves and butterflies, the art was kind of a let down and added a kilometer to my hike. We made our way back onto the Summit Trail, which was all uphill for an additional mile. The guide book said this particular trail was "moderate", but I think it meant for sherpas. I hit my FitBit 10K steps pretty early that morning, and I shook an angry fist at myself for working out that AM.
When we reached Mt. Coot-Tha Summit, there was a large viewing area with a raised platform that overlooked the city skyline, the Brisbane coast, and the islands that dot its coastline. The difficulty of the hike was surely worthwhile, as it gave me some incredible views. I asked an Aussie guy if he could take my picture, and upon hearing the American accent he started to point out the various sights that we witnessed from the summit. He showed me the Sand Islands and Gold Coast and told me about his upcoming trip to the Great Barrier Reef. I thanked him for his advice and for taking my picture, and wished him well on his upcoming trip. I browsed the souvenir shop, bought an expensive coffee, and sat down on a bench overlooking the world below. I had packed some bread and peanut butter from that morning's breakfast, so I had a light snack. I enjoyed the sun beating down on me while I jotted down my notes and listened to some Australians' playful banter above me.
Chapter 8: History and Target Shoes
Despite only having $4 for bus fare, the driver took pity on me (must've been the accent) and took me all the way back to the CBD. I checked out the guide given to me by the volunteers at the MacArthur Museum and decided to walk over to Anzac Square to see the WWI memorial. Not only was my visit to Australia an incredible vacation, it also was an unbelievable learning experience. There was so much I didn't know, historically, before coming to Australia about their involvement in both world wars. That hunger for knowledge was gradually being fed by my visits to the MacArthur and Queensland Museums, but I wanted to find out more about these important periods in Australia's history.
For those of you who were unaware like me, ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps and was formed on April 26, 1915 as part of an Allied expedition to take the Gallipoli peninsula. Australians pay tribute to those who died in conflict every year on the anniversary of its formation. Australians are very proud of their military and veterans, and there are ANZAC memorials, statues, plaques, and tributes scattered throughout the cities which we visited. I was disappointed that we were to miss the 100th anniversary of ANZAC's formation by less than two weeks, but I'm sure my Aussie pals celebrated by visiting memorials and maybe wrestling a wallaby.
Anzac Square was packed with people spread out on blankets during their lunch break, chatting with friends and munching on sandwiches they had packed. I was only slightly awkward with my backpack and fancy camera, but the people enjoying the beautiful day could give a shit. There are statues that are scattered throughout the square, such as the one of soldiers helping one of their wounded mates get to safety and one of a mounted digger during the South African War of 1899. The crowning jewel of the square, however, would be the World War I memorial at its center. Greatly resembling the DC War Memorial, the Anzac Memorial lies at the top of a double set of stairs, 19 on the left and 18 on the right to represent the year 1918. Unlike its American cousin, the Anzac Memorial lists the names of the battles in which Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought. In the center, inaccessible to tourists, lays the eternal flame to represent those who have died in the line of duty. It was evident that a lot of thought went into its design, and I give mad props to its architect.
Despite being packed with pedestrians on their lunch break, I again strolled through Queen Street Mall and went in and out of stores. I was beyond sweaty from my earlier hike, but I was in desperate search of a dress and shoes to wear to dinner that night. The president of Martin Brower's APMEA (Asia Pacific Middle East Africa) division, an Australian named Peter, had invited me and Elliot to a nice dinner, and I wanted to look like the Jackie O to Elliot's JFK. Fancy is not really my thing, and the only shoes I'd packed that weren't flip-flops or Keens was a pair of brown sandals whose soles were peeling. Not exactly "let's charm the boss" kicks. After stopping in what seemed a koala crap's worth of shops and two department stores, I was still empty-handed. Everything I'd found thus far was either too small, too old lady, or way too expensive, particularly in the department stores. I had my own Pretty Woman moment walking into these nice stores all grubby from my hike and lugging around a backpack; fortunately for me, Australians are too nice to make anyone feel unwelcome. Too bad I couldn't walk in later transformed with a bunch of bags and say, "Big mistake. HUGE." to the salesclerks. There was one store that had so many adorable dresses that I wanted, Kitten D'Amour, but I'll have to fill up my piggy bank before making my purchase from there. If you're into vintage dresses like those you can find on Mod Cloth, definitely check out Kitten D'Amour's stuff. Even though I'd tried on a number of dresses, I decided to stick with the one I had packed. I did, however, pick up a pair of $7 heels from Target on my way back to the hotel. Winning.
I was starting to get pretty hungry, so I went to a beachy looking restaurant that had open air dining overlooking the Queen Street Mall. I got a chicken club sandwich with chips, and it was infinitely better than my Hungry Jack's experience. One of the curious things that I'd noticed about Australian dining was that they put garlic aioli on EVERYTHING, and it's often used as a condiment to accompany french fries (I'm calling them chips to stay consistent this post). If you are looking for ketchup, you need to request "to-mah-to sauce", but a lot of times the restaurant doesn't even carry it. So, you're gonna have to haul your own Heinz.
Even though I'd done nothing but walk since awakening at 7, I headed back over the Brisbane River to South Bank after I finished my lunch. The State Library of Queensland was another entry in my MacArthur Museum provided guide of heritage sites, and Elliot and I had seen promotions for an exhibit profiling WWI called "Voices". It looked interesting and in sync with my Australian history quest. The library was nestled in the Cultural Center pocket of South Bank, and the interior looked shockingly like...a library. In fact, there was only one section that contained exhibits of interest to me. I walked through a room devoted to Aboriginal Culture that contained a lot of portraits, some things from an exhibit called "1,000 Fibers" and a cool looking map of Australia that had the original names of cities and provinces. I'm really not doing the room justice, but it's hard to explain its layout.
The "Voices from WWI" exhibit wasn't even an exhibit, but rather a display. It was a glass wall that had etchings and sayings from newspapers denouncing conscription. It did have reproductions of WWI-era post cards that visitors could take as well as prints of the actual postcards sent and received during that time period. After snagging myself some postcards, I left my fellow library-goers as they were: hanging out on computers and not doing much of anything. I was jealous after taking over 20,000 steps in just six hours.
Even though my body was utterly exhausted, back at the hotel I couldn't nap for the life of me, so I decided to shower and start getting ready for dinner. While waiting for Elliot to get home from work, I had a Budweiser-like beer called Pure Blonde in the outside area of Stone, the hotel restaurant/bar. I watched some Australian TV and got sucked in by this show called My Kitchen Rules, on which the contestants were tasked with making a carnival themed meal for first responders at some fair. It sounds random, but it was absolutely engrossing. When Elliot returned home, he got sucked in as well. We practically had to pull ourselves away from the TV to walk down the street to dinner. We're not normally into cooking shows, but this one really cut the mustard for us. If you're curious about Australian cooking shows, it's Season 6 Episode 35.
We met Peter at Bacchus, a restaurant about a block away from our hotel. It was a very nice spot located in a hotel, and I was nervous that I was underdressed. Upon learning that Peter was arriving straight from the airport, I eased up a bit. Peter, a Brizzy native in what I surmised to be his early 50's, was incredibly friendly and personable. With a slight Aussie accent, he was the type of person with whom you could discuss a variety of topics. Throughout the course of dinner, we touched upon Australian sport (singular in the continent), its school system, how college students stay local for university, how student loans work (if they need them, a % is automatically deducted from their taxes post-graduation and is salary dependent, which is incredible), our travels thus far in his country (he said that I'd seen more things in just five days than he had, and he grew up there), and a hint of business talk between him and Elliot. I really enjoyed having dinner with him and didn't feel pressured at all to put on airs just because he was Elliot's boss. That's the kind of guy for whom you want to work.
Dinner itself was delicious, and the service was excellent. Our waiter was super adorable, and we got to choose our "fillet" knives (I picked the zebra print because, hey, zebra print) and the mustard butters we wanted for our steaks (which could be melted with a blow torch at our insistence). We were given these little shots of potato soup topped with jamon iberico that Elliot and I later said we could've eaten a whole bowl for our meal. I had what's called a Scotch fillet (a steak that's pronounced "fill-et") that came with cheesy potato cubes and fennel salad. Everything was awesome, and I don't know if I'll be able to eat steak again without blow-torched mustard butter. Midway through our meal, I finished my glass of wine. I was planning on just drinking water the rest of the dinner until Peter spotted my empty glass. He asked what I was drinking and decided that he wanted a glass of Pinot Noir, so I should have another one with him. The manager of the restaurant served us our wine in these comically large wine goblets that looked like they had come from a Viking longhouse. I also wasn't planning on ordering dessert, but yet again Peter persuaded us to do indulge. I had this "pear themed" dessert that had white chocolate mousse, a mini bundt cake, pear sorbet and what seemed to be boiled pears. I wasn't too jazzed about the pear part, but the bundt cake and mousse were really good. After finishing up, we thanked Peter profusely for dinner and fell right to sleep back at the hotel.
Chapter 9: Ahoy, Matey!
The next morning, I decided to sleep in until 9 and forgo working out in favor of an earlier breakfast. I bypassed people having brekkie in the Parklands and an organized group of kids make crafts and walked towards the Queensland Maritime Museum, located at the far end of South Bank. The museum had exterior and interior spaces, and I was told by the volunteer staff to start with the outdoor section. Once again, I was in the company of friendly Australians, including an older gentleman in what looked to be a Korean War Navy cap that showed me the route to take and how to work the tour headset. He said he regretfully couldn't show me around himself because he had a school trip that was due any moment. I <3 old Australian war veterans (could that fit on a t-shirt?).
I started my museum tour by walking through a non-functional lighthouse before meandering around some boats significant to Australia's sailing history. Ella's Pink Lady, the boat 16-year old Jessica Watson used to circumnavigate the globe, was displayed as well as the dory two Australians used to row across the Atlantic. I did a quick walk around the boats before "boarding" the focal point of the Maritime Museum, the HMAS Diamantina (pronounced die-men-tee-na), a WWII frigate that was instrumental in several Japanese surrenders in the Pacific. I was able to do a self-guided audio tour of the ship, walking around the various mess quarters, boiler and engine rooms, infirmary, captain's room, the wardroom, the QUARTERDECK!!! (That's for Meghan and Nish), showers, ship galley, and where they kept the depth charges on board. I think my favorite stop was the ship's galley because it had a typical daily menu with naval talk and its "translated" form. I couldn't stop laughing, because the menu listed delicacies like "tiddy oggies (pasties) and "maggot bags" (pies). Nothing like tiddy oggies fresh out of the oven!
There were numerous plaques, model ships, ship patches, and displays that described each room and detailing the frigate's history and the heroics of Australian sailors throughout the years. The most fascinating story was that of Edward "Teddy" Sheean, an 18 y/o Tasmanian sailor during WWII. Sheean was an Oerlikon (the type of gun) anti-aircraft gun-loader on the HMAS Armidale when it was attacked on December 1, 1942 by thirteen enemy aircraft. The order was given to abandon ship when it was struck by a torpedo and, moments later, a second bomb. The craft was listing to the side, but instead of abandoning ship, an injured Sheean strapped himself to his Oerlikon. Despite being shot in the chest, he shot down one bomber and kept unleashing hell on the remaining Japanese aircraft. He continued shooting even after the Armidale slipped beneath the waves, and survivors recall seeing bullets still being fired from beneath the surface. Even though he was about to meet his maker, Teddy Sheean showed bravery until his last moments. Numerous ships and awards have been named in honor of his courage, and I myself was blown away by the story of his exploits.
I read about the Japanese surrenders that occurred on the quarterdeck of the Diamantina before I deboarded (not sure if that's a word) the ship and did a quick walk through the wooden boat house on its starboard side. The small structure had wooden boats from various periods throughout history, and I snapped a few pictures for Annie and Eric, my sailor friends back home. I also walked on board the Penguin, a pearl diving ship from the Torres Strait. After walking around the Diamantina for almost an hour, the pearl ship was not nearly as vast or exciting. The Penguin was right next to the stairs leading to the dry dock, and the volunteer informed me that the Queensland Maritime Museum is one of the few places where tourists are allowed to enter the dry dock. Although terrifying to be UNDER the Diamantina, it did lead to some incredible photos while simultaneously making me feel incredibly small.
I spent over an hour at the museum, and I had only seen its exterior portion. My next stop was the indoor museum which was a lot vaster than I had anticipated. I strolled through a model of a ship's smoking room, an exhibit on various shipwrecks off the ANZ coasts, and learned about the first sea battle of World War I. I was fascinated by the little tidbits of information I picked up, like the origins of the phrases "shake a leg" and "son of a gun". I laughed at the story of how Australians were able to enjoy Scotch Prince duty free after a ship carrying it sunk off its coast. I experienced a surge of girl power when I read about the various female captains throughout history, like the Persian King Xerxes' favored commander, Queen Artemisia I, who wrote the book on being a boss. I admired the numerous commemorative tea sets, boat models, and displays on lights, radar, and engineering before stopping in the souvenir shop and making my exit. I ended up spending over 3 hours total in the Queensland Maritime Museum, and I strongly encourage anyone visiting Brisbane to make it one of your destinations.
Famished from my 3 hour tour, I stopped at the Crepe Cafe by Streets Beach and had a spinach and mushroom crepe for lunch. Small reminders to "not feed the ibis" were bolted around this area of Brisbane, as they're Australia's equivalent of pigeons. I topped off my lunch with a white chocolate, Oreo, and cookie dough cone from Cold ROCK creamery and laid out at the Streets Beach to digest, taking care to cover my four Sebastian claws. Despite being a Thursday afternoon, the beach was packed with young and old alike enjoying the incredible weather. After soaking in some Vitamin D, careful to reapply sunscreen periodically, I stopped at the supposedly haunted Plough Inn Tavern. I sat facing the path and thought about what's important to me and what I want in the future. I thought about all the travels Elliot and I have taken and all the friends we've made along the way. I wondered if I would always have a sense of wanderlust, or if it was something that would pass the older I get. The solitude and reflection time invigorated me, and I made a mental note to remind myself of what's important from time to time.
Chapter 10: Beer Research and the Breakfast Club
I showered back at the hotel, grateful to discover no further horrible sunburns, and walked down Grey Street to a bar I had looked up on Lonely Planet, Tomahawk Bar. I had decided earlier in the trip to write a blog post about the craft beer scene in Australia, so I asked the bartender for some recommendations and questions about the beer scene in his country. He indicated that Brisbane is at the forefront of Australia's craft beer scene. The variety of beers on Tomahawk's menu was a testament to that fact. In our experience thus far, Australian beers aren't very hoppy, even their IPA's. Unlike American breweries, they've yet to full embrace the power of the hops. Besides brews from local places, like our previously visited Newstead Brewing Co., they also had beers from the Brewdog guys themselves and from all over the world. The bartender recommended an Omnipollo Bacchanalia Saison, which is a Swedish beer that I'd never before tried. The beer had a mild 6% ABV and a sweet taste to it. While drinking my beer and reading an old blog post of mine (365 Days of Spain), the bartender brought me a brown ale on the house, presumably to assist me in my "research". I'm not normally a brown ale fan, but this particular one was flavorful and not too bitter. In fact, it made my rip snorter list as being one of my favorites.
I thanked the bartender again for the free beer, and I met Elliot back at the hotel. We and a visiting Martin Brower employee from Melbourne, Darren, were picked up by his co-worker Bav (his nickname) and driven to the Breakfast Creek Hotel for that night's dinner. Bav is a native of Brisbane and very proud of his city; Elliot had mentioned to me prior to dinner that he likes to play tour guide with visitors. Like with Peter, I detailed all my adventures since arriving just five days prior, and he seemed to appreciate how we tried to really experience his city. He took us past the CBD, now all lit up as the sun was setting, and it was beautiful to see it from another angle. We arrived at the Breakfast Creek Hotel shortly after and joined fellow MB employees Nick, a Kiwi, and Bal, a Manchester native, at a table in the vast complex's beer garden. Bav decided to take us here for dinner because it's considered a Brisbane institution; partly for its architectural beauty but mostly for how it survived both the devastating 1974 and 2011 floods. This was not the first time I'd heard the floods mentioned, due to the fact that they really did a number on the city's infrastructure and psyche. It was impressive how much they had rebuilt in just four years' time.
The Breakfast Creek hotel is set up like a complex with the previously mentioned outdoor beer garden, a Spanish dry-age steak room, a number of "inside" bars, apartments that used to be hotel rooms (so Breakfast Creek Hotel is not just a clever name), and a "steak line" where you could customize, cafeteria style, your own steak meal. Elliot and I had a beer called Off the Wood and were encouraged to finish it quickly and get in the ever-growing line to order our meal. The line was lengthy, and we passed the time by chatting about Australian culture, slang (Fair Dinkum IS a thing!), and sports. I decided to engage Bal more in conversation and asked him "Manchester United or City?". He responded United, so thinking myself quite the sports swami, I asked if he thought Wayne Brady played better with or without hair. The second the question came out of my mouth, I realized that the star player of Man U is Wayne ROONEY, not Wayne Brady, the musical genius of Whose Line is it Anyway? I quickly corrected myself, but the damage was done. I destroyed my sports street creed in one fell swoop. Sigh.
Nick brought us beers while we waited, and Elliot got to add Pacific Ale by Stone & Wood Brewery to his Untappd repertoire. When it was finally our turn to order, Bav recommended getting an eye fillet, a potato with bacon bits, and coleslaw. We did as he commanded, and I added on a calamari skewer for good measure. I kept seeing them on menus, and I just needed to try one. We munched on garlic bread while we waited for our meals, and yet another beer was brought to me. This one fortunately was a Pieroni, so it wasn't quite as heavy as our introductory beers. The food arrived just as I was finishing my drink...and Darren was handing me another one. This one was called Bees Kneez, and I only took a few sips to appease Darren. It wasn't very good, and I was starting to get a little buzzed. The last thing I wanted was to be sloppy with Elliot's coworkers. I let water be my guide and enjoyed my meal. The steak and calamari skewer were decent, but the potato and coleslaw were really good. I'm glad Bav recommended them and made sure to tell him so.
I had mentioned my hike up Mt. Coot-tha, so Bav decided to take us to the top to overlook the city at night. Although El and I were kind of tired at this point, we feigned interest in this prospect so as not to appear as ungrateful guests. The viewing area was surprisingly packed, but the city below WAS beautiful, and it ended up being a great post-dinner detour. It was definitely much more relaxed than hoofing it like I had done the day before. While Bav, Darren, and El were talking, I snuck away into the summit cafe. I had been thinking about this white-chocolate raspberry muffin that I DIDN'T buy the day before, so I bought one for my dessert. Much like certain people with their Wayne Brady references, it unfortunately fell short of expectations.
That night around 2am, Elliot and I were awakened by this bubbling sound. I guess there was a gas bubble in the toilet, but it sounded like some serious Monster Mash shit (pun intended) going down in our bathroom. Despite doing the Transylvania Twist at 2am, we managed to sleep through the rest of the night without further jolts to our electrodes. The next morning, El went into work for a half day, and I started my day with a workout and the usual breakfast. Checkout was at 10am, so I left my bags with the front desk and went on one last stroll of Brisbane. Despite having just eaten, I went next door to the Chocolateria San Churro and had an extremely good Spanish iced coffee and cinnamon breakfast churro. I was adequately fueled now, so I walked around Memorial Park, up and down the Parklands path, and hung out in the shade on a bench by the river. I laid on the grass by Streets Beach before heading back to the hotel to meet Elliot.
We checked out of our hotel and had lunch at Macca's (McDonald's) before checking in to our Tiger Air flight to Sydney. We had a Fat Yak at the gate before our smooth, and short, flight to Sydney. We absolutely loved Brisbane and felt right at home there, so it was bittersweet to say goodbye to it. On to Sydney!
Chapter 11: P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney
We took a cab from the airport to our hotel downtown, and we were immediately struck by how vastly different Sydney was compared to Brisbane. Sydney is a CITY, with skyscrapers, busy streets, and the like. I guess that shouldn't surprise anyone, as it's the capital of the country, but it was just soooo different from Brisbane (besides the palm trees) that it caught me slightly off guard. We checked into our hotel, the Sydney Hilton (thank you, company, for springing for our Sydney hotel too!), located downtown and close to Darling Harbour. We had a great city view, and the room was really nice. After dropping off our stuff, we went and had some appetizers and a glass of wine during the free Happy Hour that the hotel hosts. It was already dark, but we decided to make the most of our time and explore the city while we could. It, of course, started to pour RIGHT as we stepped outside the hotel, so we had to make a break for it and hop from awning to awning. The downpour fortunately didn't last too long and before we knew it we were at our destination: Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe. The Aussies were already a few beers into their Friday Happy Hour, and we had to squeeze through a crowd to get to the bar. It felt like a German bierhaus, right down to the bartender who was fucking huge. Thor? We snagged a table from a group of departing people right as we got our beers, a sour Belgian called Brett on the Water for me and an American Pale Ale for Elliot. All the beers are brewed by hand using old style methods and solar power. Man, that must make a huge difference because that was the best beer we'd yet had in Australia; both were flavorful, hoppy, and refreshing. No wonder the place was so packed. There was a chalkboard advertising their social media presence, and if you liked or followed them, you could get a free beer. Elliot went onto Facebook and did just that, but then we were too chicken shit to ask for our free beer. Oh well, at least we supported Australia's Most Awarded Brewery.
We finished our beers and started walking through the streets of the increasingly quieting downtown area. We walked past the original location of St. Philip's Church, constructed in 1788 and the bearer of the distinction of being the oldest parish in Australia. Although it was just a grassy knoll by now, I always get a sense of fulfillment by just walking past something historical like that. We found another bar, Hart's Pub, which served as a residence for some of Sydney's most prominent players before being converted to a beer and food boutique.
The house reminded me of ones found on Martha's Vineyard and its walls were decorated with quotes about drinking, old timey cartoons, and newspaper headlines. In addition to the above-mentioned decor, there were also the emblems for each of the Rock's beers they served. These were basically human bodies with different heads like a box or that of a dog. Slightly odd but unique. The beers were good though, so that's what matters. I had The Hangman, and Elliot had something called the Crazy Ivan, which sounds like a Russian machine which never breaks. There was rugby on and big groups of mates drinking beer and having bro time. We pretended like we knew what was going on to fit in, but rugby's still a mystery for me. Fake it till you make it, I guess. We were getting hungry at this point, so we ordered this basket of hot wings with cider ranch and some bruschetta that had a coffee-like balsamic vinegar. I asked before ordering how many wings came in the basket, and the guy told me 12. The American accent must've worked again because when the food showed up, there were twenty in the basket. Score one for the Yankees. After finishing up our food, we walked back to the hotel and had a good looooong sleep.
Chapter 12: Paying Tribute and Opera Tryouts
The next morning, we fueled up at the hotel breakfast buffet and were psyched that there was an omelet station. While we were waiting, some guy who reminded me of the Manchester United fan from Eurotrip started loudly demanding his omelet from the chef. What a dick. I half expected him to take the caps off two beer bottles with his eyes. Sadly, it didn't happen.
After declining his invitation to join his bus to Paris (Okay, I'm through with the Eurotrip references), El and I checked the guide I created and decided to start our day by visiting the Anzac Memorial. The weather was cooler than Brisbane (low 70's) but sunny, so it was a beautiful day to walk around the city. On our way to the memorial, we walked through Hyde Park with these big palm trees and this incredible mythology themed fountain. We got distracted by the site of this beautiful cathedral, St. Mary's, so we decided to stop in and check it out. Unfortunately for us, mass was going on, so we decided to come back after seeing the other sites. We passed an indoor glass water park and again Elliot and I marveled at how freaking fit Australian parents are. It was seriously mind-boggling.
We reached the Anzac Memorial, set like the Lincoln Memorial on a reflecting pool, and were amazed at the detail that was put into the site's exterior. The building itself was like a geometric structure with pyramid steps ascending to a domed roof. On either side of the entrance was a buttress topped with seated and standing stone figures. Once inside the museum, we learned that the figures represented the difference makers during the first World War: A.B. Seaman, Airforce Mechanic, Aviator, Bomber, Ammunition Carrier, Driver, Field Artillery, Field Telephone Mechanic, Gas Rescue Man, Infantry Man, Lewis-Gunner, Light Horseman, Naval Signaler, Navy Wireless Signaler, Nurse, Pioneer, and Surgeon. As you ascend the steps to the memorial's entrance, a sign reminds you to "let silent contemplation be your guide", which to any reasonable person is common sense. Apparently, some Aussie lady didn't have any because she hollered up to the guys cleaning the windows, "You can wash the windows at my house!" The memorial attendant had to remind her to keep her voice down. I almost broke the silence rule because I was trying so hard not to laugh. I fortunately succeeded.
The area on which we were standing looks down onto a pillar that "focuses on the sacrifice of soldiers", but it looked a lot like a crucified Jesus. Elliot took some incredible pictures of the focal point, so I'll make sure to post them. Also on the viewing area was a small room that had an Australian flag, New Zealand flag, Anzac flag, and the eternal flame. The memorial attendant heard us talking in hushed tones and, hearing the American accents, rushed over to find out from where were visiting and how our trip was going thus far. It was ironic that he was just yelling at a visitor to be silent yet his volume was growing increasingly louder as he excitedly talked about America. Do as I say, not as I do.
Below the memorial was a museum dedicated to the Anzac forces and the people involved in WWI. There were lots of personal artifacts donated from families of soldiers, an explanation of the memorial's architecture and Australia and New Zealand's roles in the war. I found it fascinating that Australians were so respectful of The Great War's impact on their country and the sacrifice of all those involved in its victory. We bought Elliot's dad a commemorative military coin and then left for our next journey.
Our next stop, the Australian Museum, was right down the street from the Anzac Memorial. It didn't end up being anything too special but did have some cool exhibits on Australian dinosaurs, a birds and insects section, and an exhibit called "Surviving Australia" that displayed all the native, living and extinct, creatures that call Australia their home. The exhibit that I enjoyed the most was one on the sea Aboriginal people. There were numerous artifacts and explanations of their culture and customs, again quenching my knowledge thirst. One of the interactive displays was a video of an Aboriginal elder telling the creation story of Arilla and Narawan. I couldn't find a link to the story online, so I'll do my best to retell it. Arilla and Narawan were brother gods who lived in a paradise in the sky. Narawan was jealous of his brother for being so talented at many things, and one day pushed him in anger. Arilla pushed him back, and Narawan fell onto the barren Earth where there was no water or life. He looked back into the sky and called to his brother for help. Arilla tried in vain to reach his brother, and Narawan started to cry salty tears. He shed so many tears that they created the oceans and seas of the world. Despite being able to communicate with his brother, he was still lonely, so Arilla sent down various flora and fauna to keep Narawan company. Despite the new company, Narawan was still lonely. Arilla thought of a plan to blow down onto the great waters of Narawan's tears to build them up; that way Narawan could climb the risen water back to the sky. He blew and blew, and the water rose with each breath, but it wasn't enough for Narawan to climb high enough into the sky. To this day, Arilla still tries to make the water rise in the form of waves, and Narawan still tries desperately to return to his brother in paradise. I really hope I did the Torres Strait Islanders justice in retelling one of their creation stories.
After walking through the rest of the museum, Elliot and I sat down on a bench to book our Sydney Harbour bridge climb. We hadn't researched ahead of time, so we were STUNNED that it would cost us a whopping $530 for the both of us to make the climb. After going back and forth for maybe 30 seconds about what we should do, we decided that we would walk across instead of climb the bridge and use that money for other things. After a few minutes rest, we went back to the Cathedral but mass was still ongoing, so we sat in a pew for a few minutes and snuck a few pictures. It was a beautiful gothic cathedral with stained glass, so it was disappointing to not be able to take more pictures. I suppose we saw enough churches in Europe, so it's not like we were left wanting.
The weather was still beautiful, so we decided to walk over to Circular Quay and Sydney Harbour. As we were approaching, we saw a big tour group of students wearing backpacks. All of a sudden, without warning, they all started sprinting towards the water. It was so goofy looking, and Elliot said they looked like they were running from a dinosaur. I'm still laughing even as I type this. Despite having the ground shake my water because of the impending T-Rex, we still gasped a little bit upon seeing Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. It's such an iconic building that to see it in person was truly a jaw-dropping moment. As with all touristy areas, there was a plethora of street performers playing instruments or hawking their wares. I can now say, after being in Sydney, that I've seen a street CONTORTIONIST perform. She wasn't exactly the most spell-bounding performer, as she kept saying that every pose was going to be "very difficult". Sure they are.
After taking the obligatory couples picture and numerous selfies, we headed towards the Harbour Bridge and encountered a street market in the Rocks neighborhood along the way. There were all sorts of stalls selling everything from the typical clothing and food items to other cool things like soaps, glass, jewelry, and vintage Australia posters. I bought a card from an autistic Malaysian boy, Pian Lian Yeak, who's been profiled in US textbooks and various art galleries worldwide. His art was incredible, and his mom was the one running the stall. It was clear how proud she is of her son and how supportive she is of his art.
Before walking across the Harbour Bridge and getting some gorgeous pictures from a higher vantage point, we stopped at Lowenbrau for beers and a soft pretzel. There was this family with two grown sons sitting by us, and the dad and sons were going to town on those liter steins. It's the type of family I can see Elliot and me having if we decide to have Brouse bambinos. Yep, my ambitions are sky high!
After the bridge walk and stopping to buy souvenirs, of which we got some Aboriginal art on bones and a legit boomerang, we decided to stop by this pub called Fortune of War, which claimed to be the oldest in Sydney (open since 1828). It was a raucous type of atmosphere with tall chairs set around the island bar in the middle of the room. Elliot and I both commented that this place was going to be one helluva party on the upcoming Anzac Day. We each had a One Fifty Lashes beer before walking through Korea Town to Harry's Cafe de Wheels, a Sydney institution according to Lonely Planet. We split a beef, bacon and cheese Tiger pie and a chili dog with ketchup and mustard that was really good. The pie was just okay, and it really wasn't worth walking all that way to get it. Womp womp.
We relaxed back at the hotel before deciding to walk back to the Harbour for some night pictures of the Opera House and Harbour. It was a beautiful clear night, and there weren't as many people hanging around as there was earlier in the day. There was, however, a girl with a warbly voice who thought she was Christina Aguilera or something trying to collect tips. Elliot and I walked past the Nurse's Walk and "Suez Canal" to Lord Nelson's Hotel and Brewery for a house-brewed pint. Much like Hart's Pub, Lord Nelson's was packed to the gills with groups of mates watching rugby. It has to be impossible for girls to be single in Sydney given all this meat available in herds. We did comment, however, that there were so many smokers in Sydney; maybe that's a deal breaker for the gals. At Lord Nelson's, we each had a 3 Sheets pint which was fantastic. There was no place to sit in the bar given the bro-packs, so we walked across town to the Bavarian Bier Cafe for dinner. The place gave off a weirdly trendy vibe, despite the waitresses wearing lederhosen shorts and the menu having traditional German beers. I had a Franziskaner Hell, and Elliot had a Hofbrau. We toasted our last night in Australia over a delicious German meal of uber-schnitzel (chicken schnitzel with sundried tomato, arugula, and parmesan) and potato salad. The nice thing about German food is that it lulls you to sleep; ideal for us given our early start the next day.
Elliot's flight was earlier than mine, so I had a nice breakfast on my own the next morning before taking a cab to the airport and heading home to Chi town. While I tried my best to put my Australian experiences into words (13,768 to be exact), I cannot possibly do the trip justice with just a blog. All the laughs, friendliness, memories, and adventures are experiences I'll never forget. Australia is an incredible continent, and one to which I hope to return in the future. Many thanks to all the Aussie mates who made this American girl's trip down under that much more special. My Fair Dinkum trip was truly ripper...
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