Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brisbane visit

Last week I had a chance to go to Brisbane for the first time. It's the capital of Queensland, the northeast state of the nation. As cities go, it's a real looker, downtown has a mix of modern and old architecture. From the airport it was a very easy train ride to the center of town.

Queen Street is a pedestrian mall in the center of the business district, which has all the standard chain stores that Melbourne has, JB Hi Fi, Rebel Sports, Coles, etc. There's few things I enjoy more than people watching in cities. Perhaps its the professional nature of downtown, but most everyone I saw was very well put together, heels, hair, ties and so on.

That said, there was an ACDC concert and the line to get on the buses stretched for 3 city blocks- it took about a minute and a half to walk from one end to the other end, I made a video along the length of the line. ACDC's one of Australia's most famous exports and I reckon you could see 3 generations of rockers standing next to eachother.

Surprisingly tasteful public art pieces are all over.

even some impromptu pieces like this wall covered with dozens of mounds of chewing gum... all in brazen view of this guy:

Really, a "gum removal vehicle?" It was a little electric golf cart with a pressure washer and perhaps a chiller. In all seriousness, it's a clean pleasant city. Downtown was full of interesting places to eat and shop.

I almost lost it when I saw cafe Neko, which had the same name as my old cat.

This place claimed "best coffee in the city", which made me think that Brisbane was ringed by suburbs and townships with better coffee and the qualifier was the result of a court case.

But no limits to the hyperbole on this place. "Best steaks in the world"! I think I would regret going to the grave having walked by the best steaks in the world and not taken them up on their offer. Originally I was going to get the fish and chips, but I said, what the hell, lets pull out all the stops and get the eye fillet (the equivalent of filet mignon). So I ate alone, finishing off the last few pages of Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Country, a travelogue about england where he mostly wanders around in the rain, doing nothing. I read the passage about how something clicks over in your brain when travelling alone for a long time where you start talking to yourself aloud and anyone else who'll listen.

As steaks go, I probably would've rated it as a 7 out of 10. Believe it or not, but the best steak I've ever eaten was during the lunch of the annual Malpai Borderlands Group in 1999. This is a group of environmentally sustainable cattle ranchers in far southeast Arizona/southwest New Mexico. I was giving a guest talk about El Nino and Arizona climate during my Master's research in Tucson. That summer we went around to about 15 different groups, giving similar talks all over the state, but the Malpai group was unforgettable. Literally, the meeting was in a cavernous metal-sheeting walled fairgrounds building with a sea of folding chairs full of the whole spectrum of rural society, mostly leather-skinned ranchers with weathered hands like brick layers'. I had my overhead slides (yes, in the days before powerpoint) and the comically small screen provided for ~300 people was about the size of a card table. However, the positive and enthusiastic response from the crowd and the conversations I had later one-on-one were imprinting. (There were equally imprinting encounters in other cities where a native american elder closed down our meeting, declaring El Nino forecasting to be "bad medicine"... or when I incited a group of ranchers to nearly tossing folding chairs in revolt when I mentioned "global warming")

But I digress... At lunch they had a cowboy lunch with beef and corn and beans and bread on paper plates with plastic forks. I felt that I was tasting the beef equivalent of eating the freshest sashimi vs "fishy" frozen fish. I had been a vegetarian for years at that point and it was the culinary equivalent of the conversion of st paul. That was the best steak I ever had.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tom...sounds like a decent trip for you to the city called Bris Vegas ! Was my hometown for many years before coming to Melbourne....great place to visit for a brief moment in time...

    The amount of water they are having up there at the moment is unbelievable, especially in the central midwest of Queensland. Must have been great seeing how they operate up there with meteorology.