Sydney Pg 5 (Robina to Brisbane)

We didn’t fully explore the Robina Town Centre because it was getting late and we’d just spent several hours looking at Pacific Fair; it was just a look for the sake of getting a feel for the place. I liked it. Not as much as Pac Fair, but it was nice. It seemed to be made up of several long alleys, at least 3, plus a lower part. There was a water feature at the bottom of the alleys and then steep steps down to a few more offices and I think a café or two. We only walked down one alley and up another (accidentally I might add, we’d meant to go back up the same one). We looked in the fruit shop because I was still hanging out for a mango, but theirs were not ripe so we popped in to the supermarket. Bought a few groceries but no fruit because their mangoes were no better.

We went back to the fruit shop and I bought two huge plums and two huge nectarines plus one mango that David found and it seemed ready to eat. I was admiring their pineapples which were also massive, but we didn’t have long left in the campervan so didn’t buy one. Can’t say I’m sorry because the plums were horrible and the nectarines ho hum. I ate the mango a few days later and it was nice enough but I’ve had better ones in Perth. So when people ask me for shops in the Robina Town Centre now, I have a picture of what they’re talking about, and that was the whole idea of our little look. On the way back to the van we saw a little verandah-type roof

Robina Town Centre's bank of ATMs

Robina Town Centre's bank of ATMs

and in there was a whole bank (groan!) of ATM machines. We’d never seen so many brands of bank in a row and we did laugh. There were 6, but it looked a lot all in a row like that.

Now we set out to go back to the highway. Note the words ‘set out to’? Oh dear! We were doing nicely, and reached a bridge that I remembered coming under, but just as we got under it I realised that the off ramp had been on the east of the bridge but the on ramp we wanted was before the bridge so we’d missed it. From here, some of it is vague, but we tried to find an alternate route, in peak hour traffic. Oh man!!! We ended up travelling a long way to who knows where – an industrial area anyway, and realised that our only choice was to try to retrace our steps. We got stuck in one little traffic jam because of one chicken driver on a 2-lane roundabout that sat there for about 15 minutes; I kid you not. But somehow we did manage to get back on the road on the bridge. Then we had differing opinions because I said we needed to turn right off this road and David said we didn’t need to turn at all. We didn’t argue over it, but as the street went past (stupid wording, it was us moving!) David admitted that he did recognise it. I wanted to turn around and go back but he said we were heading in the general direction and could turn right in a while. Groan! After the number of times we’d got lost this holiday I just didn’t have it in me for ‘seat of the pants driving’. It’s the way both David and I usually handle driving because we are both excellent map readers and can always get ourselves out of trouble, but the map we had only had main roads on it and it was next to useless.

The road we should have gone down had had about two suburbs worth of what I would call ‘marina-style living’; each house had a canal running at the back of it – a pretty one, not your average accidental creek – and each had a mooring place, so they had a road at the front for car access and boat access at the rear. As we travelled along the road at right angles to this one, we could see even more houses, all with the same treatment. These must have been worth mega bucks. Minutes from the beaches of the Gold Coast and the wonderful shopping centres, I can only guess at the price tags. I wish we’d have found a real estate brochure to pick up and bring home. We did get one from little rural Windsor in NSW and the prices there were horrific!

David eventually did turn right and we came out right next to Pac Fair – wow!!!  Well done David!  We then turned left up the highway and gawked at the high-rise buildings of Surfers Paradise. There were not as many as we’d expected and the density of them was not what we’d expected either, but it sure was a lot of very tall buildings. We just drove on through, as we knew which caravan park we wanted for the night and it was further up. David was asking for directions and I told him to just keep going; that the highway itself chucked a sharp left and we would be almost there when that happened. Next thing I know he took a left. Argh!!! I left it for a few blocks wondering what on earth he was playing at but we were not on the right road so I asked where we were going. He’d seen a sign that said some highway or another, so took it. The traffic was still heavy and though he took a left to turn around, other cars came behind us, so it turned into a major drama to turn around.

We did manage in the end and got back to the highway, and I wasn’t completely kind in the way I told him to just keep going straight until I told him otherwise. He did just that; and why wouldn’t he? and we passed where it truly did turn left so I had to eat humble pie while we turned around yet again to take the turning we should have done. This road, the one we needed, had two names. Have you ever heard such a stupid thing? It was called Brisbane Road and the Gold Coast Highway for this section. Mind you it has helped me at work cos someone asked for something on the GCH at Labrador (the suburb name) and I had it listed on Brisbane Road and was able to say to him “Well, it’s the same thing in Labrador anyway isn’t it?”

Very soon now on our right was the caravan park we needed, and we managed to turn into it without going past first. Yaaaayyy!!! We booked in and were given a dear little party bag with tourist brochures, vouchers and all sorts in it. The park had its own restaurant which was nice, plus a pool and 2 spas. The weather was looking a bit threatening though so although we went and looked at the pool and I paddled in the 1 inch deep bit leading to the children’s part we were definitely not going to swim. We got settled in the van and decided that although we weren’t hungry we’d have a nice coffee in the restaurant, which we did.

There was a school trip in there causing lots of busyness for the staff, but they were incredibly well behaved. We chatted with the headmaster and a teacher who told us they’d come from Longreach (which is called ‘The Gateway to the Outback’). Blow that for a joke. It’s 1,180 kms north west of Brisbane, absolutely smack in the middle of the state of Queensland and right on the Tropic of Capricorn. Apparently it is 400 kms to their nearest McDonalds store. Now that is remote, hehehe.

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Back to the subject at hand, we decided to be daring and have a spa seeing as they were bound to be heated. It was indeed, and all secluded and warm and bubbly and fun and relaxing. We felt very decadent in there and David said we should buy one. Don’t know where we’d put it though. And then to bed for our last night in the camper.

Wed 3rd We woke, decided against a toast breakfast, and then packed up and cleaned the van thoroughly, packing our suitcases again – not that they’d been very unpacked, and became aware that we’d gathered a few things that would no longer fit. They were fine in bags for now, but we’d need another something to put them in for the return journey on the plane. We went to the restaurant for a decent breakfast but had to wait for half the Longreach School to be served as the girls had got theirs and the boys were all in a row being served from a bain marie. We were so very impressed with their manners and patience and the help offered from others for the boy on crutches. One boy accidentally took 2 serviettes and took great care in putting one back – and neatly at that. Beautiful kids. And we told the head master so.

Eventually we got our breakfasts, though mine wasn’t what I’d asked for, but it didn’t matter. There was a reluctance about this meal. It was the death knoll on the campervan section and meant that we only had 3 more days to go. But also we were looking forward to being in a real hotel again, in a real bed and having it made for us. The thought of clean sheets and towels each day certainly has its appeal. We had been most comfortable in our little van, and it was certainly the best way to have travelled the distances that we had done, but it is more our scene to be spoiled on holiday. We could legally have stopped in any layby at any time, including nights, and we had a little toilet and shower in the van, but we felt safer in the parks. I’d have expected to wake in the morning and be missing the wheels if we’d have parked by the road. Also we used powered sites each night to keep the fridge cold, and some nights used the little air conditioner as well.

We started our journey up the remainder of the highway to Brisbane and decided to find our hotel and drop off the luggage before returning the van to Eagle Farm. Easier said than done.

As we went down the highway to get to Brisbane city it actually narrowed from 4 lanes to 3, or even 2 in some places – in each direction of course. We could see that there was a special lane for buses over on the right though so I’m not saying they’re behind the times or anything. David made me get the video camera out for the first glimpse of Brisbane’s tall buildings, so I missed getting a still shot of it. Never mind. It was exciting to see a big city once again and know that we were going to have some time to explore it. I get asked for way more Brisbane numbers than Sydney ones so as we got into the city and drove down its streets I was looking all around and saying “Oh, there’s this” and “Oh is that what that looks like” etc etc. I was loving just being there.

Eventually David told me to stop looking at the sights and help him find the hotel so we could drop off the luggage and then get the van to where it needed to go and then we could relax. Fair comment, so I looked in the stupid map for the second last time. It took me a while to actually find where we were on the map and we pulled over for a minute into a side street so David had a clear idea as well. Both agreed that we needed to back a little on where we’d come so off we went. Well Brisbane streets do the strangest things and turn at right angles when there’s a street continuing on, but under another name. I’d been happy looking around, but having had a gut-full of this wretched map over the past 2 weeks, this was the final straw. I did get us to the hotel despite the roads being there one minute and gone the next. I’d had to choose alternate routes twice because the road we were on had changed it’s name and we hadn’t reached the turn off I’d expected to.

On reaching the hotel we took the side street immediately before it so we could park. This was not to be. The road was really steep down hill, and a dead end at that. It was also way too narrow to permit turning around, and all the parking spots were taken. This gave David no choice but to reverse the van back into the street we’d just turned off. Not a major road, but a city street none the less, which freaked me out.

Then we turned into the hotel laneway but there was nowhere to park there either. We crept down this lane and, as we’d feared, it went under the building, but still with sufficient clearance for us so far. There were two options, one go out the other side where there would not be any parking or go into the deliveries/parking area. As we went into this, a guy rushed out and very nicely told us that we wouldn’t fit in the parking, which we knew, so we asked him where we could park ‘cos we just wanted to drop off our luggage. He went and checked and said we could park in the deliveries bay. I was so grateful and so relieved that we could park the great monster and not have to drive around this strange (to us) city any more. We gratefully unloaded the luggage from the van and into our arms and struggled into the lift and then checked in. We were early – help! But the guy took pity and found a room that was ready for us and up we went. We were so impressed that the TV in

Grand Chancellor Hotel - Greeting Screen on the TV in our Room

Grand Chancellor Hotel - Greeting Screen on the TV in our Room

the room had a personal welcome to us on it…
‘MR/S L It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Hotel Grand Chancellor’ it said. How lovely!

We put down the cases and for me, I collapsed on the bed and told David that I didn’t care if I never moved again. I was completely exhausted. We were only there a couple of minutes when he said that we should go, for the sake of getting the van out of the delivery bay if nothing else. He hadn’t listened to more than the words had he? I know it’s a guy thing to not see the meaning underneath and I forgive him, but he soon found out what I’d meant. I started to guide our way to Eagle Farm from the map but the road that should have become Kingsford Smith Drive chose to just end in a teensy little backwater behind some dirty factories. We tried to negotiate to get to where it should have gone to, had it gone through, but none of the roads turned that way so we went back for part of the journey and I tried an alternate route. This time we went a fair way but David felt we were on the wrong path so we turned back again. I had been sure I was right, I am normally as good as he is at map reading. By this time the tears were rolling down my face, but he was a wonderful attentive husband and noticed pretty quickly, so pulled over. He was a bit shocked because he had not realised what I meant when I told him I’d had enough, but he took the map book from me and had a look and off we went on his chosen route. Even then we did 2 circuits of one block because the signposting was so bad, and almost went past it again, but he managed to change lanes quickly enough and from there it was fairly smooth.

It was a long time before I could bring myself to pick up the map to check how we were going and I made lots of sarcastic comments about the map… ‘Well according to this…..’ which David and I were partly smiling about. I found us a garage to fill up the diesel tank just a little before we got to the depot, so that was done. David then turned into what looked like a right-hand turn lane that lead directly to the hire place, but it turned out not to be a thoroughfare, it was just there to trick tourists! He had to wait for a gap to get back into our own lane of traffic and then do a U-turn – yeah, one of them again – at the traffic lights. There are very few traffic lights where you can legally do that in Perth, but over East it seems to be quite the normal thing, so this was OK.

We dropped off the van without any drama, and the guy gave it a thorough going over. Fair enough too. And we got our $5,000 deposit back. No I didn’t make a mistake and add a zero, it’s a fortune isn’t it? It was taken from our credit card, and it WAS taken, not just an imprint. It was good to get that refunded I can tell you. He ordered a taxi for us and this arrived quickly.

The taxi driver was lovely and knew Perth quite well so I was asking questions about the suburb in Brisbane called Fortitude Valley and whether it was like Northbridge in Perth, because this was what I could imagine from the places I’d been asked for in it. He said it equated fairly well and had been terribly run down and a place for gangs and so forth but it was being beautifully changed and cleaned up. He took us through a tunnel to get back to the hotel, which was a surprise, and we told him of our getting lost finding Eagle Farm and he was really understanding and lovely about how hard new cities can be. He delivered us right to the door of the hotel and we went upstairs to unpack and feel settled in our room. I had a long bath and washed my hair to help me feel that I’d washed off the travelling. I’d loved the travelling, it was just having such troubles with the map that had got to me. It was just so darned frustrating!!!

We did venture out again, you may be surprised to learn 😉 Our hotel was across the road from the Roma Street Parklands so we thought that we would explore those, and they were very pretty indeed. There were some massive frangipani trees and I picked a nice flower off the grass and pinned it in my hair. There were many large grassed areas plus a fair sized flower garden with all sorts of different picturesque settings. We had to walk

Roma Street Gardens Waterfall Steps

Roma Street Gardens Waterfall Steps

around curving pathways to look at this and it was all beautifully set so that each corner held a new surprise, which is exactly how I think a garden should be. There were also water features, one of which was quite novel because it was a long set of slightly curved stairs and you had to put your head through a kind of ‘window hole’ in a wall to see it. We didn’t get to see it all on this day, but decided to go and have another look the next day. In fact we went here every day of our Brisbane holiday and saw new things each time. Don’t ask me for a size of the place, I’m not good at that, but I’d say 10 minutes walk in length by about 5 minutes walk in width – and I’m not talking ‘smelling the roses’ walk speed but a casual/purposeful speed.

On the far side of the park was a very open air cafe named Tomoko – just a roof over the

Tomoko's Award-Winning Cakes

Tomoko's Award-Winning Cakes

tables and chairs for the patrons, but fully walled where the kitchen and counters were.  They had recent signs up saying they’d won awards at a cake show and the cakes in the display cabinet really did look special so we had to try!  We chose white mud-cakes, little round, white, pudding shapes but with milk chocolate trellis-work sticking out at right angles from them in 4 places and looked beautiful.  And tasted even better!!!   After relishing every tiny bite of these, we idled our way back to the hotel.

We weren’t game to go and find somewhere to eat for dinner, so decided on the hotel restaurant, despite the fact that it didn’t look to be our taste. We booked for 7pm I think it was and got dressed up in the good clothes that we’d taken, for the first time. When we got there it was still light but got darker as we watched the view from the big picture windows. We were just enough out of the city to see the lights come on slowly, and we thoroughly enjoyed that. It was one of those restaurants where they put the napkin on your lap for you, but I wasn’t really feeling like eating and chose the tiniest entrée on the menu to have as my main course. David chose a steak. The food was nicely cooked and good flavours, but the menu really wasn’t ‘us’ and we only ate there the once. I didn’t even want any dessert, or any alcohol, and just drank water. Don’t think the waitress was very impressed but I happen to like water.

Back in our room we turned the telly on and had half a look at it, mostly for the sake of seeing if anything was different over there. Some of the ads were amusing, and it was such a thrill to see all the familiar businesses and suburbs mentioned on them.

And then to bed. Oh boy was it good to sleep in a comfortable bed, with crisp, clean, white laundered sheets!

Thu 4th We woke up and ate the last of the now dry bread for breakfast, spreading the margarine on with the handle of a tea spoon. (Not just for fun but because it was the only implement available in the hotel room.) We couldn’t be bothered going to the restaurant for breakfast, even though we’d heard they did a nice smorgasbord.

The other activities of this day involved a huge amount of walking. We began by looking at one of those bits of paper with lines on, you know, the word starts with an ‘m’ and only has 3 letters? Hehehe. This one was provided by the hotel and was only of the inner city, so we looked at how to even get into the city and set off without over confidence, but we made it – not only safely, but first attempt. We saw a bag shop with some really good prices so I bought a new handbag so that I could find things in separate pockets instead of the sack-style thing I’d been struggling with for the past 2 weeks. We also bought a big backpack to put our extra luggage in for the homeward journey. We’d only had 1 piece of cabin luggage on the way out so made sure this was within cabin allowed size and planned to put the gifts safely in it where it wouldn’t get kicked and thrown by the baggage handlers. Both our other cases had been broken on the way to Sydney. They weren’t expensive and this was their 3rd holiday, so no worries; but I was not letting my gifts out of my sight.

And then we were in Queen Street Mall. I’ve been asked for shops here literally thousands

Queen Street Mall - Didgeridoo Player

Queen Street Mall - Didgeridoo Player

of times and to actually be there was so exciting. We walked down the left, turned, all the way up to the top, turned, and back to where we’d started so we saw it all, and then decided what to look at. Apparently there are 1,000 shops between the mall and the shopping centres that open onto it, so we did not get to see it all; just the highlights. Things that struck us as we walked around? There were many, many businesses in the middle of the mall that obviously relied on fair weather for at least half of their space – cafes with no walls around the seating part, just a roof awning; fruit shops with no roof for their customers to stand under etc. There were 2 of the ‘open’ café/restaurants that sold alcohol. I certainly could not imagine that in our Hay Street Mall. Actually I can, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Outside the bag shop had been a ramp going under the mall which buses were going down, and we saw the bus station signposted from the Mall into one of the shopping centres so we went and had a good explore. Not only of the bus level, but the 6 or so floors of shops. The bus depot was interesting because the buses pulled up but were separated from the customers by a full partition, the top half was glass so the customers could see when the bus got there and what number it was. The driver opened the relevant partition door somehow or another when he was ready, and the customers who had been queueing so beautifully between their little marked lines that were set for each bus run got on in a lovely orderly manner with no pushing and shoving. There were 2 or 3 bus runs for each door, so it was spread out over quite a long distance, but there were shops all along the opposite sides, so it wasn’t an unpleasant place. From here we walked down to the river once more.

All of Australia’s capital cities have their river and I wouldn’t say there was anything particularly notable about this one, but it was very pleasant as we walked along the side of it. We eventually came back through the buildings and had an early lunch of croissants and coffee before setting off walking again. Got our confidence back eh?

We did see some beautiful paddle boats though.

Brisbane River Paddle Boats

Brisbane River Paddle Boats

Now we decided to walk out to ‘The Valley’. I learned very quickly in my job that Brisbane people almost always refer to Fortitude Valley in this way and it is usually said with a fondness in the tone, so I was very keen to see what it had in store. The taxi driver of our first day had told us it was being cleaned up so we had no idea what to expect. Now with one exception we did only walk down one street there so I am not judging, or saying that we summed it up in our look. This is just an account of what we did see. It was all rather old and a bit grubby looking and had buildings of dubious function – no signs to tell you what they did, though it wasn’t housing and for the most part it wasn’t shops either. There were some office type places, lawyers or accountants, that style of business, but then we got to China Town. We hadn’t seen Sydney’s version which I had hoped to do, so we were glad to see this one.

It was rather exciting and new to walk into a mall filled with fancy Chinese roof decorations and banners and shops, and the street signs were written in both languages. There was a little water fountain and pond and it was all kind of cute. At the end of this we turned right

Fortitude Valley - ChinaTown

Fortitude Valley - ChinaTown

and there was a fruit shop there with some nice looking mangoes so we bought one – yummeee. David isn’t fussed about them, just so you don’t wonder why we only got one. Then the next street to the right was more of China Town but I didn’t feel fully safe in this one. There was what the Queenslanders call a ‘Police Beat’ here – Pacific Fair had had one, and there are a few in other major shopping centres. It’s almost like a sub-branch of the police station, a cross between ‘having a presence’ and being available in a less threatening way for the public to have access to them. There were a lot of food places in this mall and some canvas covered seating areas to sit and eat at, but we just walked on through. There were heaps of high school kids there which seemed strange because it was not lunch or home time for them, and no teacher supervising for it to be an excursion. Who knows?

We did not explore further, but went back towards Brisbane and saw the Story Bridge between some buildings so went to explore that, we were keen to find out if there was a story as to why it had its name. After reading the plaques we decided that there was not a particular reason, but we walked across it anyway. It was very windy up there and pretty high too, but we walked all the way across and then back again – just because it was there.

As we’d walked through the city to get to this bit, we back tracked by walking along the river so we were seeing different scenery. If you’re only going somewhere once you may as well see what you can. There were a lot of joggers in this area. In Sydney they were all running around the Harbour, here it was along the river, and a beautiful place to exercise too.

We then went back to Queen Street Mall and from this angle we found the Myer Centre. Another place I’d dearly wanted to see, so in we went. This was weird (even with knowing how hilly everything is there), because there were ground floor exits on about 4 levels! The centre was not very large as far as left to right, front to back is concerned, but it had about 8 floors and although there was a void in the middle, they filled it every 2 or 3 floors with a café or something, and I loved that because I didn’t get vertigo. There were glass lifts shooting up and down – David said he’d counted 12 of them and by the time we’d reached the top going floor by floor on the escalators, we decided to take the lifts back down. Strange as it may seem I am better in glass lifts than normal ones.

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Granny May Crafts

Granny May Crafts

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