Australia Day 14

We had to be up early for to get some shopping done and to take advantage of our Free Continental Breakfast. We have been so bad on this trip about not taking advantage of either complimentary meals or discount voucher, but then again, I suspect that the hotels and travel agencies expect it. To be honest, some of the hotels have bizarre rules and times for the free breakfast and in some instances it is better just to grab a baguette or something on the way out rather than deal with it.

The continental brekkie at the Pacific International was equally disappointing, but I have liked here and at some of the other places we have stayed at the selection of rolls and bread to make toast. I can always count on shoveling a few rolls down to fill me up and get me going in the morning. After breakfast, we headed out shopping. The only store I wanted to get something in was the Dome store located next to the hotel. They had this cute little outfit I wanted to get Sarah for her kid due in March. While I was there, I snapped up a nice polo shirt for myself and a T-shirt for another friend. Mom and Gary continued shopping, and I just went back to the room to chill until checkout time. The two of them made it back to the room right at check out time – it seems they were chatting up a storm with one of the shopkeepers in this shopping area that we had not hit together. We sat in the lobby for about 45 minutes until the shuttle arrived to take us to Cairns Airport.

For our flight to Brisbane, we flew on one of Australia’s discount airlines, Jet Star. It is like Southwest or Jet Blue back in the US. It is very no frills, and they have a severe weight limit on carry-ons as well as checked baggage. Thankfully, we were on an International Itinerary so they waved the overages we had. We booked the flight as a Qantas flight, so hopefully we will be able to get some frequent flyer miles. On board the aircraft, there was nothing complimentary. Everything from candy to sodas to wine and beer were for a nominal fee. One thing that was cool was that you could rent a portable media device that could play audio or video programs on demand. It was fairly inexpensive (AUS$7), but I had my iPod and as it has become custom, I chose to snooze on the plane.

We arrived and caught our bus into the CBD of Brisbane. Just from the impression of a drive through a city can give, I rather liked the city – certainly as much as Melbourne. It is weird because I had not done any research on what actually to do in Brisbane, so all of my judgments were based on feelings alone. Once we checked into the hotel and read the activities map, we were all disappointed we hadn’t spent more time in the city. When we opened to the door to our hotel room, it just made matters worse. Instead of the cramped quarters of the last 5 days, we got a one-bedroom suite. I still was on the sofa bed, but we had a kitchenette, washer/dryer, and Mom and Gary got some insulation from my snoring. We chilled for a bit and then headed out to eat. We kept seeing these ads for Sizzler’s newly staffed and security monitored salad bar, which cracked us up. Why did they monitor the salad bar? Were people stealing from it? Were all the ads tongue in cheek? We didn’t know. So we went to the Sizzler down the road – mainly so we could tell people that we went to a Sizzler in Australia, but also to check it out. I can tell you that the food was not that good, and I can’t recommend it. When we got back to the room, I did some research on the net and found that some psycho lady put rat poison in the Salad Bar at two Sizzlers – including the one we ate at! We laughed pretty hard over it.

I decided to head out one last time in Australia and ended up chilling with a Brisbane native named Chris for most of the night. I think we both made each other laugh making fun of each other’s accent. He kept asking me to say random phrases and I obliged. He did tell me that he was going to call his friend up and have me say something to her, but we never got around to it. One thing that did crack me up was we were in the middle of chatting and all of a sudden he said, “Right that’s very nice. Its unusual.” He was so puzzled when I burst out laughing. I explained to him that he sounded just like the characters on Kath and Kim. He seemed to be a bit puzzled that I had actually seen it. I had a great time, and by the time I had to catch a taxi back to the hotel, I think we both felt that we had made a new friend.

Meeting locals like Chris is something I love to do in foreign countries. It helps drive home the fact that despite our sometimes-amusing differences, we have a lot of similarities. We are all facing the same demons and challenges in life and I think we are both a bit happier knowing that there are others in the world just like us.