We diverted our trip and are now staying in the NE corner of Australia in the state of Queensland (QLD) in the city of Brisbane (BRIZ-bin). And it is fabulous - what a great last minute decision. The city is a coastal town, yet with a beautiful snaking river that dominates the downtown and all of the little hipster neighborhoods that hug it. And speaking of hipster, this city reminds me exactly of a mix between Portland, OR and Marin County just north of San Francisco. It is very beautiful, hip - and fun.
After being here just a few hours, the girls already said it was their favorite stop on the trip so far. What's not to like? Plus, we look just like everyone else, so we fit in well. In fact, we were mistaken most often for Australians during our travel in India and Asia (even after they heard us speak!), we feel like honorary citizens.
We are renting a quaint little cottage home on a quiet, hilly street in an area called Paddington. We are in a "Queenslander" style home (somewhat Cape Cod-ish). There are no bugs and it is in the low 80's everyday, so the windows (without screens) are thrown wide open. The Noisy Miner birds are large and numerous and loud - and literally wake us up every morning, rudely - like cats in heat.
The people here are fun and friendly and relaxed - and everyone here looks fit and tan and tall and (mostly) blonde. Wow.
We talked about just selling our house in Chicago and moving here, that is until we found out there is no such thing as half-n-half or cream for coffee. They just drink it black. Oh that, and it looks pretty expensive to live here. So it looks like we'll be back in June as planned.
And as in Argentina, we decided to rent a car as there is no way to really experience a town like a local until you drive their roads and get out to the outer neighborhoods and suburbs. The big difference is the cars steer from the right and drive in the left-hand lane. I decided we would be fine as I did this in England and Scotland some 20 years ago. I picked up a car from the airport (the day after we arrived) and promptly got lost coming home (missed the exit inside a tunnel). Now, trying to navigate the opposite steering and lane-side, in a passenger van at least a half-foot wider than a U.S. minivan, all the while while lost and reading Google maps on my iPhone through my reading glasses, I was lurching and weaving and wouldn't you know it - I saw some flashing red lights behind me.
The next thing I know, young Constable Tim Li pulls me over for erratic driving! After I explain the situation he laughs and says he understands and to just be careful. However, as a precaution and an official procedure, he says he must administer a "drunk driving breathalyzer". By this time, him, me and his partner are yucking it up about arrogant American tourists trying to drive in Australia and I am making some bad jokes about just measuring the strength of my "morning breath" before noon.
Needless to say, I pass and then carefully pull away. To which Izzy, who has been riding shotgun in the van the whole time, looks over at me, cocks her head like only a smarty 12-year old can, and says, "You know Dad, I'm going to tell Mom about this as soon as we get home".
It's OK Iz, I'll do you one better and tell everyone in our travel blog. It's a funny story.
No worries, yeh?