January 23, 2018
Caught an Uber to the airport. It took a mere 17 minutes at the speed limit. Central business district to the suburban airport. There is a tunnel that virtually skirts the city, the traffic, but is also a vortex in its never ending arc to nowhere. First time ever flying Qantas. Extravagant, I know, but used points for a biz class fair Brisbane to Melbourne. Went to check in and it said “see attendant.” So I did. And he checked me in. Then I went to the lounge because I was starving and hadn't eaten and that’s when I discovered I was in cattle class. The reason they told me was that the flight was over-booked and I’d been bumped. Go figure. I’d booked in one class and Qantas had put me in another. I said I wasn’t very happy but what can you do? Such first world problems. I got into the lounge at least and the spread was exceptional, fruit, eggs, smoothies, a barista churning out flat whites. I checked at the gate if there was any chance to end up up front but, as they say on Little Britain, “computer says no.” Had a wonderful “lunch” on board which was a sausage roll. Hey, at least Qantas is still serving a semblance of food. Two hour flight but 45 minutes to get luggage on the carrels in Melbourne. As part of the tennis package I got an airport transfer; ah the self-importance that washes over you when you see a chauffeur in a suit and tie holding a sign with your name on it. A Mercedes to boot. The hotel is expensive which I write only to state that nothing much about it is particularly great; we’ve stayed in the Sofitel in London which is exceptional, the Sofitel in NYC which was very nice, but the Melbourne Sofitel is desperately in need of an overhaul. It does boast an enviable location (being a 15 minute easy walk to the tennis); the room however is on the small side, basic with a chillingly sharp view from the 41st floor which only makes me think of Towering Inferno, not Green Acres. The air is so thin they should dispense oxygen masks. It’s the Tokyo style of hotel; mall and commercial at street; office for thirty stories, hotel at the top. As shown in the collage above, the interior centre is one large atrium, very past the due date. For no reason I can discern, there are costumes from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, on display by the elevator bank. My tennis package doesn’t start until Thursday but upon arrival the coordinator had an unused day session on her person which was offered and which I greedily snapped up. Second row. Dimitrov loses in the quarters to UK's Kyle Edmund; only the sixth UK man to make it through a grand slam quarter. Did I mention it was the second row? Dimitrov receiving from Edmund. After the match I checked out the grounds which were bursting with activity; concerts, play areas, bars and kiosks, a zip line. A zip line! What would they think at Wimbledon? After all was said an done I was back at the hotel halfway through the Cilic victory over Nadal which, alas, I had to catch on TV. The bed was comfortable and I forgot about the 41 story drop. Small mercies.
January 23, 2018
Started with a four lap swim in The Johnson's 50 meter fifth floor swimming pool. Nearly died! Hot and alternately cloudy and sunny and overall wonderful in Brisbane (which, to be fair, I expected to be more crass, flash and glitz than it was. Architecturally it was actually more interesting than YVR). Re-connected with my Oz friend Glenn after more than 30 years (!). We headed out in the AM to Mt. Coot-tha, the highest peak in the state. It was weird how quick we were out of the city and into the bush. At the top of the mountain are beautiful views north, west and south. Don't let the clouds fool you; it was plenty hot. I had to, twice, take a European shower (that's when, instead of changing your sweaty shirt, you just spritz more cologne). After coffee and a wander at the top, we drove down to the botanical garden, which runs over several hectares at the bottom (and dwarfs the older, smaller, inner city bot garden). A bottle tree on the left. Figs growing up the trunk of an Asian fig on right. Heliconia, a beautiful bird of paradise-like flowering plant. Flowering ginger. Nardoo. A floating fern that looks like a floating four leaf clover. Indigenous Australians ate the plant fresh as well as grinding parts into a flour; alternately, many Europeans died from eating it. Vanilla pods. No wonder pure vanilla is at risk of extinction. In the afternoon we walked the rejuvenated riverfront which has been reimagined in a livelier, more interesting version of Vancouver’s Yaletown, replete with a beach. A shaded walkway shrouded in bougainvillea lines a lovely path which wends a few clicks past park, ponds and cafes. Later in the afternoon we caught a movie then walked into Fortitude Valley and Newstead, diverse neighbourhoods which mix industry, gentrification and the quaint. We ate at an old gasworks, redeveloped as an open concept living and eating neighbourhood. Rolling pins on the ceiling; that was an idea that sounded good on paper. I chose the lamb and passed on the snaps. Remnants of the gasworks, a la Yaletown's roundhouse.