Tuesday 3rdApril 2018
Prince Charles and his missus, Camilla, are clearly among the many avid followers of this blog. They have been inspired by reading of our adventures to come out and join in the fun! By the time you read this they should be here and joining us at the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games.
Earlier today, while walking in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens looking for the foot bridge across the river, we heard the rich tones of a brass band playing somewhere in the near distance. We followed the sound until it led us to a lawn outside the university. The band were here somewhere but we couldn’t see them? Ah! There they are, wearing camouflage kit, no wonder we couldn’t find them! Well it turns out they were practising for Chaz and Cammy’s official welcome to Queensland tomorrow.
We had awoken this morning to an empty house. Katy had gone off to work early and left us to our own devices. I think she felt a little guilty about that, but we couldn’t have been more pleased. After two weeks of charging here and there it was good to take it easy, potter about, gather our thoughts, catch up on a bit of sleep and wash our smalls.
Refreshed and adorned in newly fragrant garb we caught the bus to George Street right in the heart of Brisbane CBD (Central Business District). Unlike many of the cities we have visited recently, Brisbane does not appear to have a ‘free’ walking tour of the city available, one where you tip what you felt the tour was worth. It does have an official council one, but that wasn’t running because of the school holidays (there is a business opportunity there for any Brisbanites passionate about their city). So we were armed only with a quick bit of research on the Internet and a list Katy had left for us.
We began in George Square a regal patch of ground outside the City Hall (Brisbane is the only city in Australia to have a city hall, all the others have town halls – it is something to do with their state’s governance?). Today it as looking even more grand as it had a specially commissioned art installation in the centre, commemorating the Commonwealth Games. The one million stars installation was made up of one million (see what they did there?) origami stars all hanging from a circular frame. It was surprisingly impressive, both from a distance and close up. It was supposed to inspire light, hope and peace but I didn’t get that though it was good to find out later that Anthony had made one of the stars at work last year.
The City Hall is an impressive building, whose tower was once completed in 1930, made it the tallest building in the city. On the third floor you can book tickets to have a tour right to the top of the tower but by the time we got there they only had tickets left for the last tour. Instead we consoled ourselves with a look at the Brisbane Museum, also on the third floor and free entry. It was a splendid, modern museum but on closer inspection it was a victory of style over substance. To be fair to the museum it is not really its fault! It is just that not a lot has happened to Brisbane since it was founded as the third city of New South Wales (as it was then) in 1824; making it the third oldest city in the country. For years explorers had sailed up and down the coast, not realising that there was an estuary here. That is because the mouth of the Brisbane River is obscured by a ring of islands. John Oxley an explorer came across some shipwrecked Englishmen on Moreton Island while on an expedition to find a location for a new penal colony. He had been sent by Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Governor of New South Wales, who wanted to find a place to send the more troublesome convicts from Sydney. The rescued sailors had been looked after by a group of aboriginals who had told them about the existence of the river, so together they sailed with Oxley up the river naming it after his boss and so the new city became known as Brisbane. As well as being the penal colony’s penal colony it also became a transportation destination in its own right, when the British became concerned that Botany Bay was becoming to soft.
In the 1840s it began to take free settlers and then growth was fuelled by the good pastureland and the discovery of gold. In 1859 the state of Queensland was established and Brisbane became the state capital. The only happenings of note from then on were three floods; in 1893, 1974 and in 2011. It typifies the attitude of the European settlers, that the aboriginal people warned them about the river flooding and pointed out the marks on trees caused by previous floods but they were ignored as myths and legends.
A walk through the main shopping streets brought us to the Botanic Gardens and Parliament House. Walking through the park I was amused to see a flock of bin chickens doing their thing, hustling picnickers. It was as we made our way to the South Bank, looking for lunch ourselves that we heard the strains of Waltzing Matilda coming from further down the park and we discovered the covert brass band.
Apart from the band there were also guards of honour from the army, the navy and the air force going through their paces. It was all very casual, the soldiers looked to be wearing Hush Puppies and we were able to get quite close to take photos. At one point the Commanding Officer tapped Wendy on the shoulder and asked if she wanted to have her picture taken!
On our way back to catch our bus, I took Wendy down a few side streets to a secluded park where we found the Brisbane Windmill. This is the oldest building in Brisbane (1828) and one of only two left that were built by the convicts using their trade skills. Katy was surprised to hear about this, especially as she had once lived nearby and never heard of it.
The icing on Wendy’s cake was that we got back in time to cook tea for Katy before she arrived home from a long day on the water – that’s what mums are for!