Wednesday 29 March 2017

Wandering Australia, Part 1

Greetings from a very soggy Brisbane! Southeast Queensland is being deluged by the tail end of Tropical Cyclone Debbie, which hit northeastern Queensland very hard on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bill and I were going to visit the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art today, but they're closed because of the storm. State employees have been sent home early, and public transit is free. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We had a fine trip from Toronto to Vancouver to Brisbane. We lost a day when crossing the International Date Line, so we arrived in Brisbane early on Thursday morning. The Air Canada flight from Vancouver took about 15 hours and proved the wisdom of Bill’s booking bulkhead seats for us - we had all kinds of legroom and could stretch out for miles. Often, these seats are booked by people travelling with babies - and certainly that’s what Bill had been hoping for. Alas, there were no babies in our row, but there were two very well behaved babies nearby, so at least we could oooh and ahhh when the babies came out to play near us. The plane was barely half-full (unusual for this flight, we were told), so people could get up and wander more than usual. It was easy to spot the Australians on board - they were dressed ready for hot, muggy Brisbane, while I was dressed for late-March Belleville. I knew I was overdressed as soon as I saw several young men get on board the plane dressed in shorts, tee-shirts, and flip-flops!

Fifteen hours on a plane…what to do? Well, for me, it meant playing solitaire and Scrabble on my iPad, sleeping, eating, and watching several movies on the Dreamliner’s sophisticated entertainment system. My movies included Arrival (****), Inferno (***), Allied (****), Independence Day/Resurgence (1/2 *), and a documentary about Castle Howard. It was a bit like attending Belleville’s Downtown DocFest, but without having to get off my butt. I was also kept busy closing the door of the nearby washroom. It kept popping open when no one was using it, giving me an excellent view of the throne.

Landing in Brisbane brought the usual lines for luggage, passports and customs, but most of the process was handled without human intervention - just being photographed automatically to compare our passport photos with our actual mugs. About the only official human being we met was the woman who took our Australian information cards (“Have you been on a farm recently?”, etc.) and simply waved us through without a luggage check.

Once cleared by officialdom, we bought a Vodafone data plan for my iPad - $30 for 8 gigs. We hope it will last the 30 days we’ll be in Australia, but we can easily buy more data online. Much less expensive than what Bell offers in Canada. We also said good-bye to Robyn, Bill’s quilting friend from Picton, who was on the same flight. She was born in Australia and was returning to visit relatives north of Brisbane.

Then we caught the train into South Brisbane, followed by a muggy walk to our Airbnb. If it weren’t raining so hard, we’d be out exploring the area today - it’s the heart of the theatre/gallery/cafe district and is usually bursting with energy…just not today. We especially wanted to explore the nearby Queensland Performing Arts Centre (aka, QPAC), where Kate used to work when she and Tim were living in the area. At some point, we have to brave the elements to buy some food for dinner. Motivation can be a powerful thing!

Tomorrow, the weather is calling for much calmer conditions. Our plan is to return to the airport to pick up our car rental and head south to Coff’s Harbour, about a five-hour drive. That’s where Tim’s parents live. We plan to spend Friday and Saturday night with them before heading south to Sydney on Sunday.

Hope you enjoyed reading my first Australian report! 

Dawn over the Pacific, approaching Queensland

Bill across the aisle from me. Look how much leg room we've got!

Entrance to Brisbane International

Airtrain Station at Brisbane International

Airtrain, operated by Queensland Rail, heading to central Brisbane.

Our Air Canada Boeing Dreamliner.

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