Monday, March 29, 2010

First Day in Aus

The plane trip from LA was really good. Qantas, business class, is truly elegant. The first thing I noticed was the clamshell like seats. More about that later.

But I need to back track just a bit. Just as they were getting ready to start boarding, the woman at the desk mentioned that they were really strict about carry ons. Not only did they have to fit inside the metal frame with ease, they also had to weigh less than 15 pounds. Well, I was pretty sure mine did not. I have my laptop with me which, while wonderful, is pretty heavy. I also was carrying 4 books, the charger for the laptop, a tape player to listen to my chorus music, my iPod touch, a big container of almonds and all of my medicines and supplements, in original containers, which I had been told was the way to carry them in preparation for entry into foreign countries. Sure enough, my carry on weighed 22 pounds. So they told me I would have to check it. Since I was reluctant to be separated from my medicines, they gave me another bag to put them in, but in the process, I spilled half of the almonds all over the floor right in front of the entry to the boarding ramp. Sigh. And I forgot to remove my itinerary, so lots of other people had copies, but I didn't.

But then I got on the plane and discovered there was plenty of room in business class for my carry on. And, it surely didn't matter whether the weight was in the cabin or in the luggage area, so I don't really see the point. Luckily, my suitcase and my carry on were some of the earliest pieces off of the plane, so there was no harm done.

But, back to the airplane. On the seat were the usual pillow and blanket, but we also were soon handed a pair of pajamas and an overnight kit. And we were offered dinner. Since I had already eaten - it was, after all, nearly midnight, I only had a light snack, but the food looked pretty good - the lady next to me had salmon. And the stewards were great - Daniel 1 and Daniel 2. lol.

But the best part was the seat. I still don't understand the controls, but if you pushed the right buttons long enough, the seat could be set to be nearly flat. It wasn't a nice cushy mattress, but it was a heck of a lot better than trying to sleep sitting up. I actually got a decent night's sleep. I went to sleep at around 1:30 LA time, which was something like 5:30 pm Brisbane time (I could be off an hour or two, because I didn't switch my watch from Alaska time until they gave us Brisbane time). I only managed to sleep until about 2:30 am Brisbane time, but that is still a good long time. So adjusting today hasn't been hard at all.

Breakfast on the plane was pretty standard, but the servers were exceptionally considerate. I understand why people are willing to pay for first class and business class. You get treated like a human.

Going through customs was a snap. They weren't completely happy about the almonds, and I would have thrown them out if they had asked, but they didn't, so I didn't. Finding the correct bus to the B & B was a bit more difficult and I became aware, again, that my carry and suitcase together were pretty heavy. But, once the bus came, the driver drove me right to the B & B, Cream Gables.

Cream Gables is really lovely. I am in a suite apartment, with a bedroom, a sitting area, and my own bathroom. Since I got here in time for breakfast, I got to meet the other guests - Gail is from Toronto, and there are three women from Japan - one adult English teacher and two teenagers, who are learning English. We had a lovely breakfast, but I only had tea, since I had already eaten breakfast once at 4:30 am.

Cream Gables comes complete with Anne the proprietress, who is great at not only cooking breakfast, but also in making sure we all understand how to get around Brisbane. And Cream Gables comes complete with a cat.

So, after breakfast and map and bus lessons, which lasted until nearly noon, I was finally off. And I made my first mistake. Instead of buying a region 2 bus pass, I only got a region 1 pass - so I would have been restricted to just the downtown area. But my plan was to go into the city and get a camera, and then ride the CityCat for most of the rest of the afternoon. Once I got into the city, though, I was ready for lunch, so I stopped at a food court. Not the best food in the world, but it was OK. And I did find a camera store and I got the camera I wanted to get back in Fairbanks - the black version, not red. So far, it seems pretty good, but I have been too busy to really do much with it yet.

I walked around downtown a bit, but I really wasn't quite ready to go shopping, so I decided that taking the CityCats up and down the river would be just the right amount of interest, with not too great of expenditure of energy - I wasn't sure how long I would last with the time zone change. The CityCats are catamarans that ply the waters of the river - similar to buses, only on the water instead. And now, I needed that region 2 pass. Had I purchased it earlier, when I first took the bus into the downtown area, that fare would have been good for the whole day, but since I had mistakenly only purchased a region 1 fare, I had to buy another ticket. But it was worth it. I spent the rest of the afternoon riding up and down the river. The day, which started out rainy, turned out to be nice, so there was no problem with the weather.

And, in addition to the native Brisbanites, there were quite a few tourists, so I could ask weird questions, without seeming too odd: why is it called the Story Bridge? Where was the original prison located? Unfortunately, though, I didn't find anyone with answers. Guess I will have to look in the guide book. I talked with a German family for quite a while (got to practice my German a bit) and a Russian woman (English), eavesdropped on some French people (understood only enough to know it was French), and heard several other languages I didn't know.

But, by 5:00, I was tired, so I decided to head back. It took me a while to figure out where to get the bus. Monday isn't an especially good day for eating out here, so I picked up dinner from the grocery story next door (interestingly, an IGA).

Called Arnold and Gail Wisseman. I will see them Wednesday morning for a drive out to the Gold Coast. Should be fun. Tomorrow, I may try to go out to Moreton Island. Need to make reservations now.

Pictures to follow, if I manage to figure out how to upload. Still working on trying to figure out the cell phone. 0410 941 076.

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