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.
January 22, 2018
You know your flight leaves in the witching hour when the airport looks like this. AC flies Melbourne direct followed by Sydney direct followed by Brisbane direct. Long flights. First time in the newly renovated AC international lounge; during renos you had to go upstairs to a small and pretty drab space. The reinvented downstairs is overall splashy, clean lines, bartender, good selection of seating, very friendly. When you fly to Australia you lose a day; talked to an RBC staffer heading down who was going to miss his birthday. Boarding went smoothly. Packed plane. First time in business on a Dreamliner. Must say it’s the best AC experience I’ve ever had. The seat was private, comfortable, the AV screen enormous, the dimming options on the windows (instead of blinds) fantastic, all the basic amenities really good. The aero-nuts blog those details as “hard product” which I’d rate very high. The soft product (i.e., food and wine) is typical of AC; it always just misses the mark. Even after pairing with David Hawksworth. Hot dinner directly after takeoff, then a breakfast about an hour before landing. Still, a direct flight instead of a LAX or SFO transfer is a dream. Dream. Geddit? Frangipani with the sun at dusk peeking through. Brisbane arrival was straightforward although the taxi didn’t know where the hotel was and didn’t have navigation or a smart phone! I told him I was staying at The Johnson, but he omitted the integral definite article and only upon arriving did he say, “oh, you’re staying at The Johnson." The building was a 1970s government ministry building converted to hotel and condos a couple of years back. They crushed the marble pillars and lay them down in the lobby. It has that austerity of impersonal government bureaucracy from the exterior although the interiors are on the warm side; Oz artist Michael Johnson is the supposed inspiration, and his prints litter the public areas. The room was spacious, well appointed, quiet, with an excellent bed and pleasant views over the Spring Hill neighbourhood.