Brisbane! You’ve already excited and terrified me!
My experience got off to an amusing start upon my arrival to the suburban house of a close friend of mine. We talked and we caught up and then she welcomed me home with an adorable Australian-themed gift basket. It contained all the necessary items of Australian living such as Vegemite (a one-of-a-kind vegetarian paste only and proudly made in Australia), chocolate Milo drink mix, Cadbury chocolates with pictures of koalas, platypuses, bandicoots and bilbies on them, pizza shapes, tomato sauce (NOT ketchup), and everyone’s favorite, chocolate Tim Tams. Also included were a boomerang, an Australian flag, a stuffed koala (we renamed him Bucky), and some University of Queensland and Cricket merchandise.
I had the pleasure of tasting some of these wonderful treats the following day. We decided to have a nice Aussie breakfast of vegemite on toast and a bit of Milo and milk. In my opinion, vegemite tastes like salt and what I can only assume to be toilet bowl cleaner. Milo tastes like chocolate malted milk, and we had it sprinkled, not stirred, into our milk so we could eat it like cereal with a spoon. And the Tim Tams … like a Twix bar from heaven.
After looking through all the great things she picked up for me, we went out to find dinner at the Brisbane Noodle Market. It is a giant and busy collage of many varieties of hot food vendors, ranging from Chinese potstickers and dumplings, to gourmet mini pancakes. Located just beyond this market is a second set-up with rows upon rows of tents with vendors selling homemade and unique items and accessories such as scarves, purses, origami figurines, and jewelry. And in the middle of it all is a giant, glowing ferris wheel, the Wheel of Brisbane, which stands nearly 197 feet tall and can offer a great view of the city below.
During our conversation over dinner, my friend explained to me how unique the suburban houses of Queensland are. They are so unique that the type of houses she and her neighbors live in are actually called ‘Queenslanders’ and are rarely seen anywhere else–even in Australia. Queenslanders are mostly characterized by the vertical posts that hold up the main living areas in the home and usually have a second story. Not only is this pretty, like the columns in Roman and ancient Greek architecture, but it functions to help cool the house by making a shady area around and underneath the top floor and protects the house from flood waters. Each house usually comes with a type of veranda or balcony in the front too.
Up until now, all of this has been very fascinating, but between our trips to and from the downtown area and the train stops, we crossed paths with this little Australian spider hanging between a fence and a wall that was stretched across a walkway far below us. And when I say this little Australian spider I mean this average-sized Australian spider. And when I say this average-sized Australian spider I mean I almost started crying when I saw it. Although it may be hard to tell from the photograph, I’d guess it would be about the size of the palm of my hand with its legs fully outstretched. And I don’t even want to see the size of the bugs it eats.
Altogether, my first weekend in Brisbane has reached beyond my expectations. I’d like to send a shout out to my amazing friend Courtney for making me feel so welcomed and getting me off to a great start in this great city.