As a taxi to Townsville airport was only $22 it hadn’t been worth making the extra effort required to get the shuttle bus. The airport itself was small, and memorable only for the extreme chillies of the air conditioning at the gate.
At Brisbane airport they were charging $3 for the use of trollies, so we hauled our bags to the Connexions booth for the shuttle bus into town. My first impressions of Brisbane were of jacaranda – it reminded me of the cherry blossom in Japan, only violet blue. Our driver spoke with a pronounced French accent and turned out to be from Madagascar originally – the place I most associate with jacaranda. He kindly dropped us right at the gate of our accommodation instead of the designated drop-off point.
Our accommodation in Brisbane’s West End was another Airbnb booking, this time the lower level of a traditional, wooden, Queenslander style house. Originally the house would have been just one storey, raised off the ground to allow cooling air to flow beneath, but almost every similar house we saw had been extended in the same way. We didn’t have our own cooking facilities but were able to use the owner’s kitchen upstairs. It was a great find, and felt like we were staying with a friend.
The next morning we walked into the city centre across the Victoria Bridge. The shopping district was a lively place of modern architecture, street sculpture and music.
Top of my to-do list was a new pair of sandals, as my cheap pair from Delhi had almost worn through the sole. A decent pair wouldn’t be cheap, but at least they should be available in outdoors-loving Australia. Unfortunately the Kathmandu outdoor store didn’t have my size in the ones I wanted, and at the Merrell shop it became evident that in the women’s range prettiness was now top priority, not comfort and durability – but Mr V bought a pair, as his were getting rather worn too.
From North Quay we caught the City Hopper, a free boat that plies up and down the river in the city centre. We weren’t the only people who appeared to be using it as a free sightseeing tour rather than a means of transport, and we were well into the return journey before we both managed to get seats upstairs, from where the view was better. In places, the skyscrapers adjacent to the river reminded me of Singapore.
Alighting at South Bank we strolled through the Sunday crowds listening to free music performances in the riverside gardens, before making our way back to Franklin Street. Dinner that night was a rare restaurant treat. The Little Greek Taverna did exactly what it said on the tin, and even at 18:30 was so busy that we could only get a bar seat. Not surprising, since a tomatoey lamb stew, a grilled fish and salad, and a bowl of chips came to only £14.
Still on the hunt for sandals we took the bus to Fortitude Valley, where there was a cluster of outdoor shops including another branch of Kathmandu, the only place that had any decent selection of sandals at all. I was still hankering after Merrells, but the sales assistant told me they’d now outsourced some of their production and the quality had dropped, so I settled for a pair of Tevas. They were comfortable enough for me to walk back across Fortitude Valley to Woolworths and the Cathedral before taking the bus home.
I was glad we’d chosen to stay in the West End, with its restaurants, health food shops, traditional houses and bohemian atmosphere – we had considered staying in Fortitude Valley, but it seemed rather dull and dreary by comparison.