We arrived in Brisbane at 8am on Christmas Day. The sun was shining, there was a cool breeze, and we had just survived the 14 hour flight from LA to Brisbane. We were all a bit drunk from poor sleep and excited about what the first day in Australia would reveal.
We had already secured a hotel for the first few nights at Royal on the Park. The transport bus took us to the hotel, which we discovered was directly across the street from the Botanical Gardens. Unlike St. Louis, they are free to enter and open to all. We quickly decided to add a walk in the gardens to our afternoon agenda, and then headed out to the pool to eat lunch and wait for our room to be ready.
Lunch was a club sandwich, cheeseburger, fish and chips, and a small pizza and cost us nearly $100...the first of many price shocks in Australia.
We waited by the pool for about an hour and then headed up to our room. Perhaps seasoned travellers would advise the opposite, but we all laid down for an hour nap. The hard part was getting up. But I had the enticement of the pool to drag the littles out of their slumber. Troy, however, slept on. He had gone the whole flight with no sleep and was dead to the world.
The sun and pool did the kids and I some good. After that we all walked over to the park, not knowing that our minds were about to be blown. We had never seen trees with trucks supporting each branch or large lizards sunning around every corner. Everything was new. We walked along the river and saw mangroves with their straw like roots poking out of the mud. We saw the striking black and white magpies and then the signs warning about magpie attacks. We laughed at the idea of these pretty birds attacking someone, but later learned that they are quite aggressive and repeatedly attack long after you have left their territory. There are some reports of them even taking people's eyes out!
The next day we walked across the foot bridge to South Bank and discovered the parklands along the river. Amazing. I could not believe how nice the river walk was a how long it meandered along the shore. There were shops, flower canopies, a ferris wheel, the Streets Beach lagoon, playgrounds, vegetable gardens, and more. The lagoon was filled with rocks and sand and was completely free.
By the end of the South Bank parkland walk, we were pooped. To our delight, a motorized cycle cart came at the moment we were beginning our trip back across the bridge. He took us all the way to our hotel and only asked for the payment that we felt the trip was worth. Unique business model, university student. Best of luck to you.
Brisbane is a beautiful city to explore. It is one of the cleanest and safest cities I have ever been to. Check it out if you ever have the chance.
It's only been a short time since we left America for Australia, and there are many things and people that we miss. However, I think my dad had a good idea to reflect on a few things that we don't miss.
1. We Don't Miss The Gravel Road to Our Old House
The gravel road to our house in Central Missouri was 3 miles long. It may not sound that long if you have never lived on a gravel road, but it took us 10-12 minutes of bumpy, dusty, muddy, snowy, pot-holey, washboardy driving to get to black top, which means that we went through tires more quickly than ever before. We also never had a clean vehicle, and when the roads were really bad, we had to deal with mud getting packed under the wheel wells which created a vibration at high speed. The video below was taken on the way to the airport when we were leaving for Australia. Keep in mind that this vibration is not happening on the gravel road, but on the interstate. We had just stopped to wash the car and try to improve the ride. Not only did the ride not improve, it got worse. So we had to stop a second time to wash the car. Who does that? Who stops TWICE on the way to the airport to wash their car? People who live on gravel roads, that's who.
2. We Don't Miss The Cold
This one probably goes without saying, but we don't miss the winter. It's been in the mid 70s and 80s here. Although it is the rainy season in Brisbane and we've had constant rain for the last 2 days, we are loving the temperature. Sure, Christmas seemed a little strange with palm trees and a warm breeze, but we like it a lot and don't miss the Missouri cold...yet. For the record, Morgan disagrees. She said she prefers to be cold.
3. We Don't Miss The Uneven Price of Things
An ice cream in Brisbane is $2. A muffin is $5. We have not seen any pricing that is $1.87 or $4.79. Maybe it is because we are in a touristy area, but we really like the even pricing. Strangely, we still have to dig around for coins, because they have $1 and $2 coins and no paper money less than $5. While I'm on the topic of money, we don't miss American money either. The Australian money is so much more sophisticated than ours. Their paper money won't tear and it can get wet. It even has a see-through security feature built into it.
4. We Don't Miss Grumpy Service
Again, maybe this is just because we are still in the touristy area, but nobody in the service industry is grumpy here. Everyone we have dealt with from the hotel staff to the city bus driver to the kid at the toy store checkout counter has been, not only pleasant, but helpful and friendly. We must look ridiculous as we stand there in shock when waitresses or store clerks talk to us. They smile, are engaging, helpful, and generally seem happier than Americans. Our bus driver took us to the South Bank for free. The waitress helped me off the floor when I fell out of my chair at breakfast. The toy store guy gave me the name of a great beach to visit on the Sunshine Coast. Troy asked the KFC worker for a cup of ice water, and the guy gave him a bottle water at no cost. Could it be that the workforce is valued and appreciated so they feel happier? Are they just better trained? Is it just Brisbane or is all of Australia like this?
To be fair, when I talk to Australians about their experience with traveling to the United States, they think the opposite of me. They think the service is better and the people are friendlier in the US than Australia. So, maybe it is just that the country of origin treats visitors better because they have a different accent or because they look helpless. Either way, it's nice to be on the receiving end of service.
If any of our kid-friendly families are planning to visit Australia, this might help, but mostly this post is for us to remember on the way home at the end of our year here.
The only complaining I heard in our family was from my husband. He is a big guy and was on the aisle. We thought it would be best to have the kids in the middle so we could get out when we wanted, but we will not repeat that mistake again. Other passengers and the ever roving flight attendants kept hitting his shoulder or elbow as they passed by. It was just often enough that he didn't sleep at all on the plane.
Our Bose noise-cancelling headphones were super awesome (make sure you don't forget the two prong adaptor). We will definitely find room for them on the return trip. We will take one bag for mommy, one bag for daddy and nothing will go in the overhead bins. I loved my eye covers and my neck pillow. Yes, it was bulky, but so comfy.
I do wish I had brought some powdered protein mix for a meal. The food was pretty bad in my opinion.
Overall, the flight wasn't as bad as I expected and the kids barely noticed any inconvenience. So, take them along and go see the world. Don't wait until they are out of the house.
I admit that I am about 3 weeks behind in blogging, but I justify it because I am doing this to preserve this experience for my children to read someday. So, by that time, it won't matter that it was a little behind real time, right?
After leaving St. Louis, we flew 4 hours to LA for 2 days. We debated for several weeks before coming about what we should do during our layover. Theme parks like Disney and Legoland were high on the list... until we arrived. Once in LA, we discovered that our minds were already on the other side of the ocean. We were excited to get to Australia, so anything "big" we thought we wanted to do in LA didn't seem that appealing anymore. So, we decided to do two simple things - go to Santa Monica Blvd on day one and go to Hollywood on day two.
We cleverly combined our banking needs with the Santa Monica trip and killed two birds with one stone. The US Bank in Santa Monica was amazing. Lernik (our banker) set us up to do wire transfers and they had a currency exchange right in their office. Perfect. The walk to the beach from the bank was only about 2 blocks so we spent an hour at the beach even though we weren't prepared with swimsuits.
The next day we headed up to Hollywood. Yes, we saw the sign on the hillside and drove down the middle of town with the walk of fame and all that, but we didn't even get out of the car because it was so crazy crowded. Plan B was an awesome accidental stumble upon the La Brea tar pits.
We had heard about them when we were in Arizona last winter, so we decided to check it out.
The La Brea tar pits are areas where thousands of prehistoric animals were caught in the thick, sticky tar bubbling up from the earth. They were preserved almost perfectly. All of the mammoths, giant sloths, camels, etc in the museum were discovered in the tar pits here at La Brea. The kids loved it and it gave us a chance to walk around and wear the kids out before getting on the flight to Australia that night.
To our delight, we found the Levitated Mass display in the park adjacent to the tar pits.
I am a wife, mother, and exercise physiologist with one foot in the world of travel and one foot in the world of fitness.
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