Monday, July 06, 2009

Brisbane - Why would one live anywhere else?

Brisbane is the country mouse finding itself rather suddenly faced with the dilemmas of city life. Overnight or if you wish, since the new millennium, the sleepy village on Morton Bay where farmers congregated for the ECCA once a year to show off their produce and celebrate good harvests has suddenly found itself with towering skyscrapers, 9 bridges across the river, and an international airport.

I swore I would never live in a river runs through it city. Portland and Eugene, Oregon, Pittsburgh and New York, traffic snarls, industrial high rises blighting the banks of waterways and overall frustration remind me of the ugliness that human beings are capable of producing on some of the important estuaries of the world.

And if I were to look carefully at the mouth of the Brisbane River, I might shake my head in agreement with my former self and move to
Boonah as soon as possible. However, I have to admit that this estuary metropolis has not only grown out of its ill fitting pants whose hems were hovering close to mid calf to find itself with one of the most pleasant river frontages of any city in the world.

The charm of the sleepy village still hugs the higher hills around the river with filigree 1900 Colonial homes in all the colours of that earlier century. Property has become so valuable here in Brisbane that the derelicts are being refurbished and the dingy wood houses on stilts have transformed the country bumpkin into the only capital city in Australia that has a unique, signature architecture. The central business district blends lovely parks like Anzac and Post Office Square with the filigree of the backpacker hotel and the Creative Art Center. The Toll House has been saved along the River and a beautiful walkway cum bike-trail follows the banks of the Brisbane River for several kilometres from Kangaroo Point to Toowong.

One of the joys of living in Brisbane is driving along the ridge lines, where the early roads have turned into modern but winding highways lined with huge protected Morton Bay Fig or native Poinciana trees covered in spring with umbrellas of red blossoms while traffic circles surround ancient Strangler Fig shading Federation pre 1920 wood homes.

Of all the cities in Australia only in Brisbane has the architecture defined the city. The Queenslander, a residential architecture of the pre-1940s with its high stairs in the middle of the front veranda and its slat covered bottom front fa├žade, fills miles and miles of colourful city residential streets.

And the commercial buildings? Where else in Australia do almost all shops have wide awnings to protect shoppers from sun and rain? My friend responded to my suggestion that we buy an umbrella by reminding me that we had no need. If it rains, we just duck under one of the frequent awnings and wait out the shower which is bound in Queensland to last only a few moments before Camelot's sunshine takes over again.

I am certain that I had lived in Brisbane for almost six months before we even had a rainstorm during day light hours. I had become certain that this city has been misnamed. Surely this beautiful sub tropical paradise must be Camelot. '. . .it never rains til after sundown.'

And in all this lovely southern hemisphere ambiance, in a city entirely its very own self, what else will you find? You will find small residential suburbs within the larger city. Too numerous to recount, little shopping areas like my own Rosalie village provide community centres complete with restaurant, deli, baker and butcher shops as well as dentists and the office of the local doctor. The bottle shop, the optometrist, the ice cream and gelato shops, the local hair dresser and barber shop along with the always present real estate agent add character and colour along with the sushi bar and fish market.

All are located only a block from my lovely Queenslander Colonial on a quiet suburban street only three kilometres from the CBD.

Why would one live anywhere else?