In retreat from single digit temperatures, a leaking toilet and an ever-increasing to-do list, I decided to head to Brisbane for a few days to catch up with friends and a city of sunshine. With no big expectations in my luggage I just want times shared, good walking weather and perhaps there might be a photo opp. or story for Viva 70. I used to spend many weeks a year here professionally and always thought of Brisbane as the sun-kissed, laid back cousin to Melbourne. A place where the living is easy. And it is. And it is so much more. So as I walked along the Brisbane river on my last evening in t-shirt and jeans while locals wear puffer jackets, I thought..what are the things I’ve loved so much about my mini-break?
There are the givens – dinner with friends by the river- relaxed dining, stories and much laughter. A nice hotel- not having to clean the bathroom and make my bed. Brisbane is clean, small and well organised. It’s easy to travel here, two hours flight from Melbourne. It’s been very dry here and hot but the gardens and river are still lovely. But what are the 4 things I’ve loved most?
Number One – The Art Scene
Brissie (or BrisVegas which it it unkindly called…) has the Queensland Cultural Centre all within walking distance of the city centre at Southbank. I wandered into the Perfoming Arts Centre looking for a coffee as a priority but this had to wait when I stumbled on the Tony Gould Gallery. The previous evening over dinner, a group of friends were talking about community theatre in 1970’s and 80’s and the role of performing arts in stimulating social change. Before me was an exhibition of community theatre in Queensland during this era. From 1968-1987 Queensland was governed by the conservative right-wing leadership of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the longest serving Premier of the state. The exhibition at the Tony Gould gallery documents this era and the role of theatre in dissent. The exhibition entitled “ I am Spartacus” contains posters, footage and costumes from various productions. Small but well curated and interesting, the exhibition underlines the importance of the arts in stimulating community dialogue and being an agent for social change. The Pram factory in Melbourne played a similar role during this era.
After my coffee I wandered past the Queensland Museum, State library and Queensland Art gallery. The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art always curates really exciting exhibitions and today was no exception. I was ecstatic to see special exhibitions of two of my ” most favourite artists in the whole world….!” Margaret Olley and Ben Quilty. I’ll write a separate piece for each of these wonderful artists but for now enjoy some images of their work.
Then there’s the extraordinary Ben Quilty. Here’s his portrait of Maraget Olley which won the Archibald prize in 2011.
Number Two – Markets
Brisbane just loves markets and so do I! There’s the Sunday market along the river at Eagle street pier. On Thursday I left my hotel at Kangaroo Point, wandered down to the ferry and gently cruised up the river taking in the city skyline and numerous white apartment blocks that sparkle in the sun. A stroll to the city and there’s another one! Market! City office workers in neat suits nibble their quinoa salads and fruit smoothies. Workmen from surrounding building sites manhandle the Bratwust maxi on a big white roll with the lot. Students mingle in groups sharing their spoils or carry overstuffed market bags full of fresh vegies, fish and breads. The atmosphere is energetic and the sun opens people to having random chats with strangers. Snuggled on milk crates and stools dotted around the market, strangers share their thoughts about which meals are the best. Brazilian BBQ? Mmm nice, but my falafel, hommus and salad meal is positively virtuous and tasty!
But wait there’s more…….. Then there’s the night market. The river side lights up as the sun sets and families and friends meet up for an evening meal. Multicultural food is on offer, a musician plays on the stage, wine and beer is available and i’m eating again! This time Singapore noodles.. delicious. A chat to some locals and I wander back through the city to the ferry. The night market starts at 5pm so families gather and there’s a relaxed and friendly vibe.
Number Three – Budget friendly
In retirement I’m more conscious of how I spend my money. It’s possible to have a mini-break in Brisbane without breaking the bank. here are my tips
- Eat at markets and buy staples for breakfast- I bought milk, fruit and muesli for breakfast. Most hotel rooms have a frig and tea making facilities.
- Brisbane has free wi-fi throughout the city
- I stayed in Kangaroo Point because there were great deals on hotels
- The City Hopper is a free ferry service that travels along the Brisbane river and links key parts of the city
- Travel midweek- Tuesday- Thursday is a great time for reduced hotel rates and airfares.
- Finally the piece de resistance… The Geo Fenced E-Scooter!! Yes my friends..they are seen in London and New York and now in Brisbane. Scooters that you simply hop on and ride. Lime scooters, and there are hundreds of them in Brisbane operated through the LIME APP where you pay $1 to unlock the scooter and then 30 cents per minute. Great to zoom from one destination to the next.
There are hundreds of great things about Brisbane… these are just my favourite three…… well worth a visit!