House Hunting Down Under

Todd’s job asked if we wanted to move to Brisbane, Australia.  We jumped at the chance and have been doing everything  required to get ourselves and our pets ready to move. We sold our house in Denver, had our visas lined up and were down to a couple of weeks before were to head to  Brisbane for a house hunting trip; when we were informed that they want us to move to Houston first and delay our move to Australia by 6-9 months.  With our travel plans already booked we decided we would go ahead and use our time in Brisbane to check out all the areas we have been looking at online and see what the look like up close.

Our trip was originally planned to correspond with Kelly’s birthday (why not?!) We also realized that Australia has its version of the Fourth of July (Australia Day) on January 26th, 2 days after Kelly’s birthday.  So Kelly is excited that every year, near her birthday she gets fireworks!  The negative being a lot of things are closed this week for the holiday; however, since we don’t have any important business to attend to, it isn’t too much of hindrance.  Plus Todd doesn’t have to justify taking several days off this week to check the area out.

Day 1:

We had a long but uneventful flight into Brisbane.  It messed a little with our heads because we left Friday evening and due to the time difference and crossing the international date line, we arrived in Brisbane on Sunday morning.  As a result of the time change, we lost Saturday, but Kelly got to celebrate her Sunday birthday early.  She has since claimed that every year we live in Australia she will be claiming a two day birthday to account for the fact that no one in the US acknowledged her birthday until the day after.

The cab ride from the airport to the hotel quickly reminded us that Australians drive on the opposite side of the road than we are used to.  We giggled when the cab driver got into the “passenger” seat, and flinched every time we turned into what we were sure was oncoming traffic, it’s going to take a little while to get used to that.

We arrived at our hotel, Mantra South Bank, at 8am and they were gracious enough to let us into our room early.  We enjoyed a much needed shower and teeth brushing and headed out to start experiencing Brisbane!
Our hotel is in a touristy area, so it was actually pretty busy for a Sunday morning.  We are right across the street from a beautiful park area that lines the river and has a man made beach and swimming area for kids and families to enjoy.  While Brisbane is along the river,  we are actually an hour or so drive to any ocean beach and the river is a brown color and apparently home to some sharks, that would lead us to believe there isn’t much swimming going on in it.  So the “beach” by our hotel was packed.

We spent the day wandering around the South Bank, CBD and West End areas of Brisbane.  The CBD is the central business district and the heart of the city.  We enjoyed walking up and down Queens street, which is a pedestrian only street lined with shops and malls.  We found the local Target and there are actually several 7-11 stores around, but that was about the only recognizable names we found.  We now have to get used to going to Coles for Groceries and Meyer and David Jones being the main department stores.  We walked into Coles and did not recognize a single brand name, except for Pepsi.

It’s been a long time since we have lived anywhere hot and humid and it is definitely that here.  Some people have compared it to Houston and while it’s not that bad; it is close.  After a day of wandering around we were hot, sweaty, tired and ready to relax.  So we decided to grab the City Cat, which is a water taxi that runs up and down the river, and check out the city from the river.

The Cat is a great mode of transportation. It zig zags back and forth to both sides of the river, making it a great way to get around.  It allowed us to realize that there is a pedestrian walkway/bike path that runs most of the length of the river on both sides.  We are more and more encouraged that we can live anywhere and easily commute by bike or Cat to work.

We spent the evening hoping restaurants and bars in the area around our hotel in celebration of Kelly’s birthday (day one).  We made a valiant effort to stay up as late as possible, but were both completely worn out by 8pm.  Hopefully we will do better celebrating Kelly’s birthday – day two! 🙂

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Days 2-4:

We have successfully checked out all the neighborhoods on our list.  While none of them have been somewhere we absolutely wouldn’t want to live (other than Paddington, way to far for us), we definitely have our favorites. Right now we are leaning toward South Bank (where Todd’s office is), Kangaroo Point, and Bulimba which was actually not on our list but suggested by one of Todd’s co-workers.  Now we just have to wait until it’s closer to our move and find a place for rent in one of those areas that will allow the pets.

We did get to enjoy the fireworks for Australia Day on Tuesday, although we lost track of time and ended up watching the from the restaurant we were having dinner at, rather than along with river shoreline like we had planned.

Todd had to go to work starting today, so Kelly is on her own exploring the area further.  She intends to make a run for the Gold Coast tomorrow and check out surfers paradise.

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Day 5:

We are absolutely loving the ease of the public transportation in Brisbane.  Even more amazing is that you can use it (and the same pre-paid Go Card) to get yourself to the Gold Coast in under two hours.

Kelly wanted to at least get to the beach this trip.  Even though we’ve been to Australia twice now we have yet to SCUBA dive, guess that will have to wait until we move here.  For now, just a trip to the beach will have to suffice.  Todd seemed really nervous to let Kelly explore the public transportation to the coast, but she was determined and promised to check in regularly.

It turned out to be even simpler than anticipated (and cheaper, it was like $20 roundtrip).  You catch a train that runs every 30 minutes and takes about an hour to one of 6 “Gold Coast” stops.  Kelly Chose the Nerang stop, since she had read that was the closest one to Surfers Paradise, her destination for the day.  The Nerang station is in the middle of nowhere and when you get off you would have no idea that there was an ocean or beach anywhere near you.  But if you go to the bus station attached to the train station and find the 740 bus, it’s less than a 30 minute bus ride to the beach.  The bus drops you off right at the tram that runs up and down the different beaches in the area, but Kelly was ready to walk and being able to see the beach from the bus stop was even more incentive.

The town of Surfer’s Paradise is a haven for high end shopping and high rise buildings.  So Kelly knew she wouldn’t be spending much time in town, but did make a quick stop at Starbucks to get on the internet and reassure Todd she had made it one piece.  With that done, it was time to head to the beach.  It was quickly apparent where the city got it’s name.  While there were only a handful of swimmers in the water and no one on the beach (it was drizzling a bit at this point), about 50 yards out in the ocean there were over 50 people bobbing in their wetsuits, on their surfboards, waiting for the perfect wave.

The plan was to walk to the far end of the beach (it stretches on for miles), but when the drizzle turned into a pouring rain and even the multitude of surfers decided to call it a day, Kelly decided it was best to seek some cover.  She grabbed some lunch and after holding out as long as she could to see if the rain would let up, she decided to take the public transportation, in reverse, back to Brisbane.

Tonight we have reservations for dinner at the Black Hide steakhouse.  Kelly’s mom got us a gift certificate there, knowing we would be in Brisbane for Kelly’s birthday.  We aren’t huge steak people, but Black Hide was amazing.  We got there a little early and apparently right as they opened.  We were the first ones there and received the full attention of the French manager, who gave us a lesson in Angus vs Wagyu beef.  That is Black Hides specialty, they offer every cut in either Angus or Wagyu.  Since we were by no means experts, we decided to try once of each and we were informed of a wine that would go with both well.  This was one of our most attentive meals ever.  The French manager took a liking to us and came by to check on us regularly and give us more tidbits of information about what we were eating and why it tasted the way it did.  We are very grateful to Kelly’s mom for the experience!  Oh and we have to mention the dessert, we had the strawberry and rhubarb decomposed.  It… was… amazing!  I can’t even describe it sufficiently, but it’s topped with cotton candy, I think that says enough !

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Day 6:

Our last day together in Brisbane.  Todd agreed to take off work early so we could pick up our debit cards (we have an Australian bank account now!!!) and go out to Bulimba (he still hasn’t seen it).  While Todd worked, Kelly went for a run and then decided to hop on a double decker tour bus and see any of the sites we had missed.  The tour bus wasn’t that great (and definitely not worth the $35 is cost).  They hand you headphones as you get on and as you get close to each of the 15 sites on the tour, you get a 5 second explanation of what it is.  There were a couple of sites we hadn’t stumbled upon, so it was somewhat useful, but we would definitely want to go back and explore ourselves some more.  To be fare, the real purpose of the tour bus is as a hop on/hop off way to get around the city.  So for that it would probably be useful, but it’s such a walkable city there is really no point.

Once Todd got off work, we made our way over to the Queen Street Mall and found the Westpac bank we had set up an account with, in order to pick up our debit cards and finalize opening the account.  From everything we have read it’s really important to have a local bank account setup before you start trying to apply for housing, utilities, etc., so we wanted to make sure we got that done on this visit.

Then we jumped on a City Cat to the Bulimba area.  This is a cute area, that is a little further out that we had planned to live, but because it is right on the cat and the riverfront trails, it’s still an easy commute to work for Todd.  The housing out there is reasonably priced and the area seems to be generically dog friendly.  By dog friendly, I mean we actually saw dogs.  We are realizing that Brisbane is not a terribly dog friendly area in general.  Most rentals don’t allow them and if they do, they need to be less than 10 kilos (22 lbs).  Dharma weighs in at a solid 40lbs (18 kilos), so we have been getting more and more nervous that we would be able to find a place to rent with her.  But, in Bulimba we actually saw a German Shepherd out walking and there are water bowls out in front of the many restaurants and shops on Oxford Street (the main drag).

After exploring the area a bit we settled on an Indian restaurant for dinner.  There are a ton of restaurants in this area of all nationalities.  It reminds a lot of the area we live in currently in Denver.  I think by the end of the night we both agreed Bulimba feels the most like a place we would want to call home.  Now we just wait and see what’s available when we finally end up here!

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Day 7:

Sadly today we woke up, jumped on the train and headed for the airport.  Todd is going on to Melbourne for a week to work with that office, while Kelly is heading home.  We rode the train to the international terminal and had breakfast together.  We then kissed good bye and Todd headed to the domestic terminal.

 

Now we just wait for our next adventure together…

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