Brisbane the River City

A bus ride from Toowoomba gave a higher than normal view of the Lockyer Valley, the market garden farms and the increasing density of housing in the Plainlands atea. All under a bright November sky and some amazing cloud formations enjoyed through the windows, the trip was smooth and time efficient.

Then the changes to Brisbane hit home as we pulled in to Roma Street. The much anticipated Cross-River rail construction is extensive and hopefully it will deliver its targets and provide the Queensland capital with extended infratstructure to meet the anticipated needs of the 2032 Olympic City. The inconvenience of noise, dust and traffic detours now might pay off….one can but hope.

Playing tourist in the familiar city that saw my University studies and Teachers College days in the early 1970s was actually a strange feeling. Although I have visited regularly, being on foot and exploring the hidden gems was a luxury I had not allowed myself for many years. So the walk across the Kurilpa bridge with its unusual structure was a delight. Allowing great views of the muddy old Brisbane River in either direction from the bridge picked up the sense of a big country town turned global city with a contemporary flair. I loved what I saw, and enjoyed the winding loop along the river at the end of the bridge which snaked along the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and opened on to Montague Road.

I had a bit of time to kill, so explored Peel Street and its many theatrical outlets and the sprinkling of high rise apartments amidst the trendy coffee shops and interesting boutiques. The murals on the huge pylons of the Goodwill Bridge or was it the William Jolly Bridge were eyecatching. The Spring flowers made a fetching border along the bridge run.

My appetite was sated by the bacon and egg roll (gf toast for me) for a $3 bargain at Ripe Cafe where the staff knew and greeted every passer-by and every customer. Next door was Wyld Floral with its natural vibe, and lots of interesting businesses along just this one section up to Merivale Street.

The Queensland Theatre Company was my destination and the super pleasant and well-equipped bar and cafe was just the atmosphere needed to prepare for the matinee performance of the adaptation of author Kris Olsson’s poignant family story of Boy, Lost. It was a powerful portrayal of the conditions and injustices of societal dysfunction and cultural mismatch and the impact it has on so many. Wonderful stageing, minimal sets, multi-faceted actors and sustained performances. What a lucky audience we were. Coming back into the reality of Montague Road was a bit of an emotional shift.

So a visit to the contemporary exhibitions at GOMA was next. The new exhibit called Air was being installed…interesting balls in the air. Amazing Indigenous traditional bark paintings, totems and works on canvas as well as the interpretation of weaving with different, non-traditional materials were enthralling and culturally gifting us knowledge. Very special.

For years I had listened to the recommendations of visitors to the Museum of Brisbane – you must go and see it. So without being hampered by parking time limits, I was free to wander back across to Queen Street Mall and into King George Square and up to Level 3 of City Hall. Yes, it was well worth it! More treasures uncovered. I particularly liked the posters of the artist in residence (who wasn’t in residence ) and the Brissie…isms. I smiled at all of them. Very familiar and oh so typical of those of us who have grown with the city.

The final piece of my day in Brisbane was to meet my family at the Old Museum for my grandson’s Year 12 Graduation from the Music Industry College. Such a small high school with a big impact on its students. A short, sweet, individualised program with the highlights being the performance of the teacher lead band Double Happiness and the throwing of the mortar boards into the air……..now to see these talented young creative arts students take on the world.

It was a foot-weary Toowoomba tourist who finished that day tired by truly grateful for the sights and sounds of the River City. BrisVegas you rock!

Delightful Duggan Street

Toowoomba is a walker’s paradise. The CBD offers so many gems, and a stroll to meet friends for lunch in Duggan Street reminded me of the treasures to be found.

Cutting through the gardens on Ruthven Street to zigzag past the Regional Council offices and the absolutely stunning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander totems presents a visual feast in a haven of trees and green – workers lunching in the peaceful surrounds must bring a wellness bonus for their workplaces. The history the totems tell is unfolding for us all to learn about, and the community is so much richer for that knowledge.

Then into Duggan Street and the first of Toowoomba’s now famous street art. There is a map of the whole mosaic of street art which entices locals and visitors alike to wander in wonder at the talent here. Check it out at the Visitor Information Centre.

Streetscapes differ everywhere, but Duggan Street has a very gentle and subtle difference. It is bounded on one side by the no nonsense architecture of the Grand Central building walls, car park and walkway, plus a few professional offices and the Suncorp bank on the corner. Nothing special there really. πŸ˜€

However it is on the opposite side of Duggan Street leading down to Margaret Street that the diversity of small businesses stands out. Toowoomba is attracting a range of new health and beauty offerings, as well as the contemporary Proof Brewery with its hip following, the classy John’s Hair Studio, and plenty of eateries and laneway coffee shops to cater for all tastes. Hopefully the businesses will get ongoing support.

Two Birds Cafe was our oldies lunchtime destination and the usual catching up was on the menu. Food, genteel service and attention to detail made our Duggan Street rendezvous a definite thumbs up and the reason to return.

Kwong Sang Walk in the Heart of Toowoomba

Toowoomba’s CBD has been revitalised – and not just from the pandemic restrictions having been lifted. Downtown Toowoomba is a place bristling with new eateries bringing all sorts of international cuisine and tastes to a contemporary food scene.

However a CBD cannot survive on coffee and cake alone. The urban sprawl to outlying shopping centres, the convenience of online trawling and the lure of shopping trips to Brisbane has seen the demise of many regional town centres. Not so Toowoomba. The TRCouncil has been diligent in its renewal planning and the CBD is a comfortable mix of historical heritge building designs, and contemporary class with eyes firmly on the future.

Kwon Sang Walk is one such contemporary addition. This recognition of its Chineses origins is seen in the designed and built walkway connecting the library, Art Gallery and City Hall precincts at the southern CBD section of Ruthven Street to the entrance to the Oaks Hotel complex in Annand Street. The laneway gives easy and pleasant access to the high quality boutique shops in the laneway through to the car park in Annand Street and then on to the Empire Theatre and Neil Street businesses.

Designed to acknowledge and appreciate the contribution of the Chineses immigrant, Hock Sing, who, in 1883 imported Chinese goods and established a store at 552 Ruthven Street. The name was changed to Kwong Sang in 1901 and the store reflected its meaning – always welcome, always open. It seems to have been a community gathering place and with a Chinese Altar, also a religious centre. This altar is now in the Queensland Museum.

In 1957, next to the store, his son, Diamond Lum, opened the first Chineses restaurant, the Cathay Cafe. Though no evidence of the original store was found during the development of the Council owned site, the tribute to its past lies firmly in the oriental and artistic features.

Kwong Sang Walk is now an embedded part of Toowoomba, and worth a wander.

TelΔΊ your friends about it, too.

Steveston turns on the charm

Canada has a well-deserved global reputation for its fishing industry, particularly salmon, and a visit to Stevest ppon at Richmond brings the history and impact of the industry to life.

The weather was cooler and the sky threatening, but the rain held off and we enjoyed the Cannery which was a great educational and learning resource, supported by the Historical Society and volunteers. The displays were well planned and executed and many original items from the bustling days were interactive. A first class place to see the waves of immigrant Chinese and Japanese workers, Indigenous Canadian craftsmen and the legacy of what was a huge salmon canning industry.

We were also impressed by the display of the Haunted Sea, a seasonal theme around the damage human plastic waste is doing to the sea creatures, aimed at students, but a warning to us all.

The fish species turned our minds towards KOVE the restaurant at the boardwalk overlooking the water, and we enjoyed our brunch. The deep red and strong flavour of the sockeye salmon was very different from our southern waters around Australia. But delicious!

Then it was a gentle stroll through to the Steveston Bookstore where the gentle owner spends his retirement amongst cascading shelves of secondhand beauties….only bought two here. Very restrained.πŸ˜€ Next door at the Social Enterprise supporting children in need, there was a lively band on the pavement entertaining a gathering and appreciative crowd. The streets are filled with Halloween displays and quirky and entertaining visuals, as well as opportunities for arts and crafts to thrive.

Halloween dominates.

The other bookstore, Village Books and Coffee, has a more contemporary feel with its coffees and yummy baked treats and sells both new and used books and gift items….and after its current refurb is completed it will have its new windows and its indoor seating back. A very pleasant place for browsing….and surrounded by interesting food and home decor outlets and only a few doors down from the Post Office / Steveston museum.

As we walked back towards the Cannery we decided to find the other historical site which shows how and where the workers lived, and the marshland landscape. Such a beautiful, peaceful reconstruction and very informative guides.

The lives, families, work, hardships, and legacy of the many people engaged in this area and industry have been beautifully preserved for all to share and learn from. This complex also sees an annual vibrant Tall Ships and festival event.

Steveston’s charm has also been captured on film in the series Once Upon a Time, and its place in Canada’s tourism landscape is assured. A wonderful day trip and highly recommended.

Anyone for Maple Syrup?

Nothing was going to wipe off my smile when I saw the final Bookstore sign at Heathrow Airport and settled in to my seat on the Air Canada flight to Vancouver. Heading back to this neck of the woods was definitely the icing on the cake of the Bucket List Book Adventure. The engines roared into life and the lady seated next to me was a gentle Vancouver resident returning from visiting her grandchildren in the UK….the flight attendants were still fresh and perky, and the menu looked fine.

Then came the announcement from the Captain. A light had indicated a possible engine issue, so we waited for an hour on the tarmac for it to be checked, and whatever they did to it….then we we able to proceed. Usually I strap on my faithful travel pillow and catch as many zzzzs as possible, but strangely I was on full alert in case that light reflickered. So it was a movie marathon for me. Well any excuse to watch fun classics Miss Congeniality and First Wives Club, as well as cackle over the documentary on Canada taking us on the stereotypes from East to West and finishing up with Where the Crawdads Sing. Yes, the eyes were hanging out of my head, but I was going to be ready for any situation…..actually it was a smooth and pleasant flight.

Instructions on how to get to the Three Kittens Guesthouse out of Vancouver in adjacent Burnaby had been prepared by my LSM back home and all would have been well, had I followed them to the letter. I guess the weariness was setting in because when I took the Skyrail to the City Centre, instead of changing and getting the Skyrail on to Burnaby, I got on the regular bus. BAD CHOICE! It stopped at every stop along the looong route and it took over an hour and it was getting dark, and it was sprinkling rain. So after I realised my error, I decided to look on it like a HopOn Hopoff Tourist bus and enjoy the various and many changes of inner city, Chinatown, suburban cultural sites and 50 stops later we arrived at the big Metrotown Station opposite the HUGE shopping mall.

Luckily it was still buzzing and I was able to purchase my local Canadian SIM and find a taxi to take me to the Guesthouse. (#7288 below) Sadly, the energy of Dwhali celebrations seemed to have sapped the ability of the taxi driver to find the number of the place and he left me in the dark and rain to try to find it. Another challenge! After getting soaked despite my umbrella, I managed to find a local who knew where I needed to go, and I finally made it to the destination next to the very interesting Deaf Support Village – and soon crashed into the sleep of the idiot who had done a movie marathon instead of napping on the plane.

Vancouver is the home of my extremely organised and welcoming cousin on my father’s maternal side, so it is always a joy to catch up with the Coltrin crew. Carol had gone to great trouble to arrange a day trip across on the ferry to Vancouver Island to a very different part from that which we had seen or met them at on previous trips. So it was with great anticipation and heavy bags under the eyes that I headed on the Skytrain to meet them at a more convenient station. In the light of day, it was easy to see that I could have walked to the Guesthouse the previous night and got the same amount of soaking as via the taxi…….sigh!

What a fun day at Sidney-by-the-Sea. This is a very small, welcoming town which had earlier, under the guidance of the Tanner family established it as a Booktown. The tourism and more contemporary food outlets and boutiques added an air of tourist temptations and although it has four bookstores, it is no longer touted as a distinct Booktown. It is just a gem though.

All four stores were different, and alluring. Even the male Coltrin contingent found themselves rummaging amongst the secondhand delights of the Haunted Bookstore; marvelling at the now amalgamated maze of Mrs Tanner’s wonderful collections at Beacon Books; the new offerings at the store still bearing the Tanner name but now owned by the Mayor; and the rare books sprinkled in among the antiques at Galleons. All bookstore owners and assistants were very amiable and willing to share their stories. I have loads of podcasting lined up for Word Fest Toowoomba from this day.

Of course I am now looking at discardimg my final few items of clothing to accommodate the new weight. Don’t laugh – my latest purchase is Bibliomaniac by Robin Ince. 😱🀣

Sidney-by-the-Sea is a sauntering kind of place. The gin distillery with its purple gin which got the nod from the boys, the sea aquarium, the fish market pier and our luck in seeing Princess the locally loved seal bobbing patiently under the pier knowing the tidbits would come, the sea front and the good toilet access at the local Starbucks were all highlights.

Even the ferry rides over and back were fun. The food on board was quick and filling, and there was even the kindness of being dropped at the guesthouse door at the end of a great day.

With a much needed day of test up my sleeve yesterday I walked up to the Metrotown Mall and had half a lunch, took photos of the very livable Burnaby satellite city and carried my other half back for dinner. And then crashed and slept some more. The body clock is very out of kilter.

And now I am gearing up for a day trip to Steveston in the Richmond area. Another adventure awaits. I am as sick of the jacket as you must be…only a couple more days.

The colour, creativity and legacy of the fight for freedom – Dublin offers us all

An early morning stroll uncovered the birth of the Unions and the part played by women in the fight for decent working conditions. I was also lucky to stumble upon the Steine – the landmark stone erected as a long since guide…now barely noticed.@

Then it was on to Trinity College reigniting the memories of our last amazing visit when we stayed in the accommodation on the College itself, and the queues for seeing The Book of Kells were just as long as then. This seat of learning and its impressive library gladden hearts from around the world and the illustrated manuscripts are magnificent!

It has always fasccinated me to see the impressive public buildings with no windows to avoid the window tax…….

Then a morning greeting to the Molly Malone statue of the song….Moved from its more public place to St Andrew street…. and listening to a father try to explain why her breasts were so shiny to his young son. A chuckle before tracking down some of the James Joyce Ulysses sites and the ever loved Temple Bar…too early for a Guiness though. Colour and creativity abound in this music and art quarter of the city.

Colour and creativty and lots of gems to smile about…

The serious concentration on the gps and the walk of a few kms to Kilmainham Gaol set in, but the walk along the Liffey, past the Guiness Storehouse, Euston Station, the supposed oldest pub in Ireland….The Brazen Head, the Museum of Modern Art and the old Kilmainham Mills made the time fly.

Just loved the pub street library in the suitcase πŸ€£πŸ™‹β€β™€οΈ

And on to the very emotional tour of Kilmainham Gaol…so fortified myself with an avo,salmon,egg scramble at the social Enterprise Loaf Cafe before heading in. Reminded me of all our wonderful social enterprises back in Toowoomba.

And the heart-wrenching history of the gaol, and those who lost their lives fighting for freedom from British rule, was really powerful against the backdrop of the echoes from the empty cells and the Stonebreakers Execution Yard. Very sobering, and very sad. A beautiful contemporary sculpture of the 14 first executed stands across the street. It reminded me acutely of the harrowing Famine memorial figures along the quay near the EPIC Immigration Centre. Highly recommend a visit to all these.

Then it was a local bus back to the hostel…and the inevitable stairs. A full, but filled day.

Dublin Always Delights

What is it that stirs your blood? For me it is the years of family history research which have yielded insights into my ancestors and their lives, loves and losses. Ireland, and the threads to the neighbouring Celtic origin and ties to Scotland make my heart sing. So from the bottom bunk of the 9 pod room at Jacobs Inn hostel in Talbot Place I am happily tapping away…though with my fingers rather than any dancing toes.

Sure, to be sure…corny I know…..I was a little wary of the budget flight from Gatwick airport with Ryanair, and after a 30 minute delay on the tarmac, my wariness grew – but all was hunky-dorey as my fun-loving grandfather used to say. I can highly recommend the Dublin Express bus from the airport to the city. Friendly efficent service, great price and the chance of catching sight of the familiar EPIC Immigration Centre and the Famine Walk on the bank of the Liffey River which were part of our last visit. It was a strange feeling during the short walk across the bridge to the hostel without LSM, as we have shared a few trips to Ireland and both love it.

THE HOSTEL – what can I say – secure, super clean, friendly, efficient and a great bar and budget food, ensuite rooms with comfy beds, charging docks and lockers…….almost perfect. Young women who spread their million and one beauty items all over every inch of space and talk in very high decibels was the only distractor. Had made a slight change to my original schedule due to my catsit commitment, but the hostel was able to accommodate it without fuss or condescension.

Loved the Sunday night onsite music of the Imperfections – a great band playing a selection of music I actually knew – great craic! Plus the massive beef burger was much appreciated after the non-gf brekky on the Eurostar from Paris, and the light, but tasty, sushi lunch at Gatwick.

And so to my first Doing Dublin Day. When I spotted The Spire I felt right at home and didn’t even need the gps. The Michael O’Connel and James Joyce statues are cbd icons, and set the scene for my day of exploring the book stores I had targetted before leaving Australia. A quick chat at the Tourist Information Centre and off with the James Joyce Ulysses map. Once outside the wind was so blustery I couldn’t open the map, so it was into the shops to avoid the weather.

It was time to divest a couple of my rather stale and ‘sick of the sight of’ outfits, and restock a few budget items from Dunnes…hey, don’t judge me. Still have 2 weeks of rough wear and tear, so budget is best. Even after a hearty full Irish brekky at the hostel, the shopping and exploring the thousands of new books at Eason’s beautifully displayed book store tired me out. Yes, ok, I did buy a book – Irish Customs and Rituals by Marion Mc Gary. So it was on to a snack of Hot Chocolate and toasted gf banana bread. My yearning for Paris pastries was over!

Wandering the streets in Dublin is easy, flat and full of delights. I found a nondescript secondhand bookstore straight out of Dickens…and the quirky owner was a jewell in the crown. Yes, another book bought! Yeats is Dead – a novel by 15 Irish Writers in aid of Amnesty International. What a find…he accepted an offer of 5 Euro. Sweet man….but in need of a bit of a reorganisation and better signs on the shelves…I was itching to give it a good tidy πŸ˜€

So it was back to the hostel to savour my day, sit beside the little book shelves for travellers, catch up on news from home, planning my routes for Tuesday’s tripping around and start reading. Back to my room and admiring my new budget- wear and then tucking in to a plate of bbq chicken wings before tip-toeing through the strewn clothes of the girls and into more reading and watching a few humorous You Tube videos…..yes reruns of Black Books!

Bring on the delights for Tuesday. So tempted by these first editions……..hmmm

In Seine in Paris

Long boulevardes with time to take in the quaint, the quirky and the quiet gems. Iconic landmarks, and easily-overlooked plaques and street art. Walking was the way to see the patchwork of history and hysteria of this city on museum steroids.

Foodies beware…..so much on offer.

River cruise in the rain…..Insane on the Seine?…..but lots to see and hear about. Relaxing and

seeing things from a different perspective.

Another great day….but footloose is often followed by foot sore. Insane on the Seine perhaps.

Shakespeare & Co – my Holy Grail in Paris

Under the shadow of the scaffolding and cranes repairing the fire-ravaged Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris and across the tourist drenched road lies Shakespeare and Company. This English literature bookshop is known all over the world as a refuge for book lovers.

When I excitedly planned a stint as a Tumbleweed who rolls in to the shop, spends a week helping out, reading and getting a sleeping space in exchange I thought all my Christmases had come at once. However, life is not a straight line to dream fulfilment, and the dreaded email arrived letting me know of the repairs and renos happening, so the tumbleweed would have to roll on. I swallowed my disappointment and booked my hostel in Montmartre and yesterday I finally made the pilgrimage (but a short 90 minute pilgrimage walk)….and yes, it was like finding the Holy Grail.

The history is fascinating, and the continuity thankfully enduring.

To see the outside was exciting. To feel the fraternity of bookies (not of the betting kind) soaking up the atmosphere outside was peaceful. The numbers inside the shop at any one time are limited, so the queues are quite long. But hardly noticeable with your nose stuck in pages dotted with words and new worlds while waiting to enter the hallowed book-lined rooms.

Yesterday was a reconnoitre…Thursday and Friday I will be back for half days basking in the sun outside the adjoining cafe, and reading in the shop library for hours. I will be an early queuer!

Sometimes it is a challenge to find food ‘sans gluten’ in a city of world-class pastries and breads with ‘boulangeries’ on most corners. However, the delicious pumpkin and mushroom quiche without pastry with perfect beetroot salad and greens drizzled with olive oil and sesame seeds and home-made lemonade from the cafe hit the spot.

Might even find a bargain or two.