I first visited Brisbane ten years or so ago. For two hours. I was on one of those 18-30s coach tours that attempt to see most of an entire continent in four weeks. Our tour manager told us that two hours was more than enough time and, since he himself was a Brisbanite, I saw no reason to doubt his superior knowledge.
My reason for going back now was to visit a good friend who moved out there last year. Kirsten met Joel in London and when his visa ran out there was nothing for it but to follow him back to Australia. Although a British citizen, she grew up in Johannesburg and so when she told me she hates Brisbane for the heat I was slightly concerned. And it was hot – 35°C and humid. I can see why she wants to move to Melbourne once she gets her visa situation sorted. She’s currently on a working holiday visa which has meant that she can’t get a permanent job due to the restrictions on it (unlike the equivalent visa that Aussies get when coming to the UK).
Arriving in the evening was a bonus. Every other time I’ve flown to Australia I’ve landed in the early morning with a long day ahead. Although I woke early (for me) for the first few days it was a lot easier to get over the jetlag this time. On my first proper day in Brisvegas we took it easy. Eating out for breakfast was slightly more leisurely than expected due to some excruciatingly slow service but I was happy to take it easy. The highlight of the weekend was still ahead: the All Stars rugby league game at the Suncorp Stadium – my first experience of rugby league in five visits to a country that treats league with the respect it deserves. For just $20 we had not only tickets to the game but free access to public transport for a couple of hours either side. Bearing in mind that the current exchange rate is around $2 to £1 this was an absolute bargain.
Before the match we headed to Fortitude Valley for drinks. At the Alpha Mosaic hotel we arrived in time for happy hour – $5 for a decent glass of wine! Then we moved on to Joel’s current favourite, a bar called Taps where you can pour your own craft beer. After a spot of people watching (there were a number of serious Aussie mullets walking by) we headed over to the stadium.
The All Stars game is a pre-season fixture featuring the Indigenous All Stars (a team representing Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders) against the World All Stars (a team formed of international players chosen from the teams that play in the NRL (National Rugby League). It was a tight game which was won in the end by the World All Stars. As an exhibition game the crowd was decent at 37000. Afterwards we headed to the Caxton pub which I am assured is ‘legendary’ and a must-visit for pre or post-match drinks. It was definitely popular and it was only jetlag that enticed me to make it home before midnight.