Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Getting around Brisbane

Well, we've reached our last few days here in Brisbane, and before we leave I thought I'd share a little bit about the city and post some photos of the area.

If you don't know, Brisbane is a river city, similar to Portland, and even though the populations of their metropolitan areas are about the same, Brisbane feels much bigger (and has a little more going on). In fact, I have to admit that Australian cities have spoiled me. There's an energy and a liveliness about them that Portland is somehow lacking. Even Brisbane, which is the third largest city in Australia, after Sydney and Melbourne, has a much busier and energetic downtown core than Portland. I'm not sure if it's the usually sunny weather (there are heaps of outdoor restaurants and cafes) or the fact that they've just done a really good job attracting people into the CBD, but it's going to take some time to adjust when I get back to Portland, which at the moment sounds dreary and boring. Okay, enough about that. (Have I mentioned I'm in love with Australia?)

Andy wrote a little bit about it in an earlier post, but back in January, Brisbane's river flooded and covered much of the CBD and many of the residential neighborhoods along its banks with several meters of water, leaving behind massive damage and a big mess. By the time we arrived it looked like most of that mess had been cleaned up, though we saw repair work happening on a few pieces of parkland along the Southbank and on some of the underground parking garages. In fact, the city recovered so quickly that, at least at first glance, it's hard to tell there ever was a flood. Without looking closely at some parts of the river bank where wharfs are broken apart and thrust up on shore and ferry stops have been completely washed away, you really wouldn't notice the damage that occurred. One thing that hasn't recovered is the color of the river, which is still a muddy brown from all of the debris and silt that washed down from upstream. (We did learn today, however, that the river is often brown because of its tidal qualities: it changes direction up to four times a day, stirring up mud and silt as it goes.)

Something that Brisbane has done (and that Portland could do) is utilize the river for public transportation. They have a great fleet of 17 catamarans called "CityCats" that serve as ferries between the CBD and the many suburbs along the river. The CityCats, along with 9 smaller ferries that travel back and forth across the river at several points, provide a fun and efficient way to get around the city. An interesting fact about the CityCats is that each one has the Aboriginal name of one of Brisbane's suburbs.

Brisbane has a lot of great suburbs close in to the CBD, including the West End, which has a rich Indigenous history, Fortitude Valley, now home to Brisbane's club scene, and New Farm, which is where Andy and I are staying. We're in a great spot within walking distance of Fortitude Valley, lots of good restaurants and shops, and New Farm Park, home of the Powerhouse, Brisbane's very cool venue for music that is currently running the month-long Brisbane Comedy Festival. (We've seen one performance so far, and it was great!) We're also close to public transport, including the New Farm CityCat stop, which means we can get to our lectures in South Brisbane either by boat or bus. There's something really nice about starting and ending your day with a boat ride on the river.

Tomorrow we'll be going to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to see more of Australia's cute endemic species, including kangaroos, wombats, echidnas and, of course, koalas. I'll let Andy tell you about that and post some pictures in the next blog.


Brisbane from Mt. Coot-tha

The Story Bridge from the CityCat

The CBD from Southbank

New Farm Park . . . just a couple of blocks
from our place and great for boomerang

Our local bowls club

Our CityCat stop

One of the CityCats picking us up for class

Mangrove swamp on the riverbank next to
the Botanic Gardens

Our apartment at the Allender

A few shots from the Botanic Gardens:

Those are tiny, orchid-like flowers blooming
from within each opening of the stalk.

The Japanese garden

Look closely and you'll see massive golden orb spider
webs stretched above the walkway. Hopefully you can
see that their webs really are golden!

And here's one up close. Believe it or not, they actually
catch finches in their webs and eat them. I
decided not to post that picture for the sensitive
viewers . . .

The elephant apple that almost took Andy out as we
stood under the apple tree saying, "what if one of those
fell on you?"

These guys are everywhere in the parks. In fact,
we have one that lives in our garden at the apartment . . .
he's startled me more than once as I've stepped off of
our veranda.

A bottle tree, which stores water in its trunk
in order to survive the drought conditions.