Round-the-World cities: Brisbane
While compiling the page for this blog linking to all my round-the-world cities posts, I realised I was missing one continent - Australia! Just the continent I've lived on for the last 25 years... According to some folks from my Antarctica trip, Australia's often one of the last continents visited by people overseas due to its remoteness, so given some readers may never have visited, it seemed like a situation I should fix. It seemed unfair to write about the two cities I've lived in (Adelaide and Sydney), but thankfully I recently had the chance to visit Brisbane for two days for work, only my second visit to the city after a school sport trip a long time ago, so thought I'd take that opportunity to cover it in the same manner as London and Barcelona before.
My first thought while taking the taxi from the airport to the CBD, was how much like London it felt - a combination of the styling of buildings, how high they were, how randomly they were laid out, the size of the roads, ... This was only increased while walking over the Brisbane River - so Thames-ish with all the bridges, and as you can see in the photo at the top, even a ferris wheel on the side!
That said, it also had the apparently American trait of running a motorway right next to the water on one side, so I made my way across the bridge to Southbank, a much more Tourist-y area with walkways, restaurants, art gallery, ... not a bad way to kill a few hours on a sunny afternoon.
Next up was the CBD - turns out, it was pretty much a copy of the CBD's I'm used to in Adelaide and Sydney; lots of glassy business buildings, narrow roads, coffee shops, and a central pedestrian mall (Queen St in Brisbane, Rundle in Adelaide and Pitt in Sydney) each with arcades running off sideways and carbon copies of the retail stores. There was also an interestingly coloured church that suddenly appeared in the middle of tall buildings (The Albert St uniting church, picture above) which felt rather disney-ish, plus a more open and older-looking Queen's park (picture on the right) which struck me as really Argentina-y (and just a bit out of place).
I'm sure it's a nice place to live, it did seem pretty similar to other Australian capitals but I didn't get much of a chance to check out the areas further from the center. Given how London-ish it felt, I guess it wasn't much of a surprise that many of the residents I met had lived in Britain at one point in time, and getting around was fairly simple. The one thing I did find nice was public transport - for one, there are a number of dedicated 'Busways', i.e. roads that only buses use. It brings the benefit of buses not slowing for congestion, but also congestion not forming due to busses pulling in and out of stops (anyone who's driven down King St. in Newtown will understand that) but unlike subways, the carriages can enter normal roads too.
What's more, as per a topic discussed on a G+ post of mine, Brisbane appeared to have a functioning Bike sharing system in place - helmets and all; I didn't the time to try it out, but given the well signed bus routes along the water, it seemed like a useful way to get around for those visiting without cars.
So that's it for me from Brisbane - if you've gone and liked it, I'd recommend Adelaide too; if you haven't, drop by and also consider then checking out other places in Qld (great barrier reef, gold coast, cairns, ...); it'll be interesting to see how this city continues compared to say Perth/Sydney/Melbourne.