We have moved all nacken blog activity over to nacken.com
This here is still a nice archive, and the new adventures will be over there posted by Peter
Sunday, October 19, 2003
So, we are back save and sound in rainy Suva.
The trip was ok .. after waking up and making apple-pancakes with butterscotch sauce for Ritsu, we finished up packing and left for the airport. Checkin, waiting, boarding plane, no problems ... on the flight were some scary 15 minutes of pretty massive turbulences, but we arrived in Nadi on time. We rushed to get to the domestic counter to see if we can get on an earlier flight to Suva, and we got lucky ... well, sort of ... all the flights were totally delayed ... our flight was supposed to fly at 8:15 PM (from what I understand it departed then at 9:30) ... so, we indeed got on an earlier flight, the 6:30, which left at 8 .. so .. this was a good thing ...
Since it was raining and very windy, we had a pretty scary roller coaster ride ... but the landing itself then was very smooth. Luggage was all accounted for and we took a taxi home.
Finally we could sleep in and I made pancakes for Ritsu for breakfast. Then we took the train to get to South Bank where we picked up some handcrafted earrings which I had ordered earlier in the week and to enjoy the arts and crafts market, which was very nice. We then slowly walked back to the city and did some final shopping ... for the first time in months I got to buy a CD. Michael Bublé, a canadian guy who tries to be, just like Harry Connick Jr. and Robbie Williams, to be the next Frank Sinatra reincarnation, and he is pretty good at that. I heard some of the songs in various record stores over the speakers and every time I found my self either singing or swinging along.
For lunch we treated us to our long time favorite Subway Roast Beef sandwich, seems the australians have a slightly different idea about roast beef, but it was still very nice. Here a nice view of the Queen Street Mall, up and down:
Some more shopping (another batch of marked down cook books for me) and then we returned to the hotel to start packing and just relaxing a bit and the getting ready to go out for dinner for which I had made reservations (or as they call it here "booking") at Restaurant Two (they really do not have it with names here). This was the closest we got on this trip to a New York fine dining experience. The place is great, but don't count on a great view, even though it is close to the river and the botanic garden. What you see is mainly parked cars. But the food was all around delicious. Appetizers were a half dozen of Coffin Bay Oysters and 6 seared scallops around a bundle of angel hair pasta tinted with squid ink (which tastes salty and fishy ... and leaves your lips from time to time quite black, so, don't order this one when you are working on impressing a date). And then Ritsu had fresh baramundi (a white fish) and I had the asian duck. Both impeccable and extremely yummy. There were some nice items on the desert menu (the cheese selection alone was great), but there was simply no space left.
2 things we would have loved to have known before and I want to ad about this restaurant: They have a special 38$ three course lunch menu which looked very nice, and they have a Digestive tasting thingie on monday-thursday evenings which has 8 courses for 95$, and if you feel like you can have a different wine with each (only a small tasting glass) for 40$ extra. If we had been to that place earlier, we would have come back a second time in that week.
We took a nice digestive stroll along the waterfront back to the hotel and happy and full we went to bed.
posted by Peter
Friday, October 17, 2003
Today we did a wine tour organized by Cork'n Fork. And we had a fantastic time. We were picked up by Peter (he and his wife Judi are running the tour) in his 21 year old Holden, a beautiful classic car, and he brought us to Carunga, where Judi waited with the small van, as she had picked up 3 other people from the coastal hotels. So we were a small group of 5 which made it much more comfortable. We checked out 4 wineries: O'Reilys, Albert River, Heritage and Cedar Creek. As a bonus we went to "the smallest, legally operated distillery" and it was very interesting. They produce all kinds of spirits and liquors there, using fresh produce from their garden trees. They also have a beautiful peacock prancing around. Lunch was also great, at the beautiful Heritage winery. Choice was Steak, Fish or Chicken/Ceasar Salad, and it was all of great quality (not cheapo fish'n chips). And desert was an absolute evil "Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce" (Recipe 1, Recipe 2). The Cedar Creek Estate is a very beautiful place with a pond for wild ducks, the staff was very nice albeit a bit overworked (seems in the afternoon more groups come by).
Peter took us then back to Brisbane and this great wine tour was over. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who visits the Gold Coast or Brisbane and is somewhat interested in wine (one in our group was actually a non-drinker, he was just very interested to see the places and enjoy the atmosphere.)
After getting back, I went to the post office and then to a bottle shop I had been before, where I found a bottle of Cachaca, and the owner said he would get more for me. He recognized me right away, very nice guy, we chatted a bit, at one point while he had to run into the backroom he said "grab a beer and open it and open it, open one for me too!" ... this was pretty funny. So we chatted some more about wines and exotic spirits (gladly not about rugby of which I have no idea) while sipping a nice Becks beer.
Back to the hotel and leaving for some more shopping. Friday nights the shops stay open a bit longer and Queen Street Mall is very crowded with afterwork drinking people, late shoppers and people getting ready for the weekend. I tried to go online, but the signal phased in an out. For dinner we went to our favorite Sushi place, which this time was very crowded, and we nearly got seated together with a group of 5 young men, who appeared to have already partied a bit, they were loud and rude and we quickly asked for different seats. Those 5 were later shown the door as they found it funny to pick food from the passing plates (instead of taking the plate). Sushi was great again, this time I even asked for some sea-urchin (uni) and even that was very tasty.
But anywhooo .. I had the great chance to watch Kill Bill: Vol1 here, right now, first show on Australian opening day ... I am wondering when Fiji will get it. Funny actually, as in many cases Fiji seems to get stuff far earlier than AU ... often only a week after US release ... in this Fiji really rocks ...
Anyways ... this film ROCKS .. it rocks so hard that I want and watch it again RIGHT NOW ... and i may actually do so .. but maybe I will just wait and go see it with Ritsu tonight ...
I know that this will not be a film for everyone .. it is very much a film for geekish film lovers .. I wonder actually how the female 'romance movie' crowd will like the film ... the screening I attended was 95% male audience ... but then again it is not you regular guy-action-movie ... first of all it is a huge display of women empowerment ... and being a Q.T. movie .. it just IS smarter .. looks VERY beautiful ... plays with chronology ... has an animated segment ... and the soundtrack is very very good (need to go look for CD now)
Very glad that once in a while there are movies that make me fall in love with "the movies" in general again ...
After that I did some shopping and for dinner we boarded the CityCat and went to Brett's Warf.
That was unfortunatelly only the beginning of yet another dinner odyssy, as it turned out that the restaurant there was allegedly fully booked out and there was no way they could squeeze us in, we probably looked to touristy and they did not want to give us their emergency table. So we had a fun ride back, taking in the City Lights (click for video clip) and went to Southbank and tried the turkish restaurant Ahmet's there ... Not sure how authentic the food is, but the setting was nice and the food very tasty (and lots of it) ... service unfortunately was very slow. When after a long wait our waitress showed up, she was very nice .. it just took way too long.
posted by Peter
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Day #4, Wednesday
So, I went to get my annual roller coaster fix to Warner Brother Movie World, which is about 45 minutes to the south of Brisbane. Thanks to Australian Day Tours, for 79AUD I was picked up from the Hotel and also got the admission ticket ... Ride was smooth, I even dozed off, not much to see on the way.
We arrived quite early, 15 minutes before the ticket offices opened ... after that another wait of 10 minutes to get into the park .. and then another 15 till they opened the barrier on main street. It was actually fun that today they were filming the opening, having a director around (Steve Stevenson?) .. but then again, maybe this was just another elaborate trick to make the day feel more special.
Compared to american theme parks, this one was much smaller. Had fewer rides, actually 'only' 3 rollercoasters. I compared it later to the Sushi situation we face ... much better than in Fiji, but not great compared to the US :)
I think I did pretty much all rides, some of them twice. Notable was the new "Scooby Doo" coaster, a fun indoor ride. Not super high, but some fun twists. One of them being that you first ride pretty much on the bottom level through a hounted house setup, then the car stops, facing the wall, and you realize you are on an elevator, which brings the car upstairs in a slight s-curve movement. And out the car goes BACKwards! yeah .. a fun drop and then up again and then the car is turned and the actual roller coaster ride begins, in a fairly dark / disco light environment, with the scooby doo song blaring all over.
I really enjoyed the water log ride, which somehow felt taller than others i know ... it too employs that "going backward" trick at some point. I shot some video, which I will put up later.
The main coaster "Lethel Weapon" reminds me a lot of the "Batman" ride back in New Jersey, but it rattles a lot and I hurt my shoulders on the harnesses ... but still fun. The last coaster is something Road Runner themed and very smooth. Not really high and no scary drop though.
I actually visited some of the shows: Marvin the Martion and the 3rd Dimension, one of the first CGI 3D movies I recall having read about and always wanted to see ... it was actually a lot of fun, it does still have the hand-drawn touch of classic cell animation, but looks great and is very entertaining for the 15 minutes or so .. the 3D effects are 'right in your face' so that even the lil' ones get the idea.
There was a bat attack show on main street which started out as a dance number by Poison Ivy and her gang and then some fight between the good ones (Bat, Rob and B-Girl) and bad ones (Freeze, with a schwarzeneggerish accent, Poison Ivy and Catwoman) ... no question who one, but Robin was made to be such a sissy ... fun.
While the Police Academy movies are long time gone (and will hopefully NOT ever revived), the Stunt show based on this movie series is hilarious and highly entertaining.
Some last thoughts? Bring sunscreen and a hat ... australian sun is cruel .. going alone as a 36 year old man is kinda weird. People treat you like a dad who lost his family or like a paedophile. Waiting in line alone is not much fun either ... Tip for lunch: there is a bakery on main street that has "normal" sandwiches ... I wish i had found that place earlier ... every other place wants at least 10$ for some greasy looking combo plate. What is really nice compared to US parks: 2 of the restaurants where actually selling beer (for the bored dads ... i spotted some of them)
Later I heard from our bus driver that Dreamworld (5 minutes away) probably has more rides. Well, I will try that one next time then.
Dinner was a bit chaotic. First we wanted to take the ferry to Brett's Wharf, but realized that we are already a bit late and decided to check out the restaurants around riverside. We then decided that we liked "Fish Restaurant" so much that we wanted to go again. Too bad that they had JUST changed their menu (different from 2 days ago). All the items that we remembered as "wanna try next" were gone, prices were up, and no waitress came to see us for 10 minutes .. so we left .. getting more tired and more hungry. As we approached the japanese Restaurant we thought about trying, Ritsu realized that she left her handbag at the Fish Restaurant, which gave me some unexpected evening workout, sprinting back to ensure it is still there (with all the money and credit cards) ... turns out that the new couple sitting at the table had not even noticed the bag.
Tired and my foot hurting like hell, we ended up going to Sushi Station again, and it was very nice again. Though it was a bit late, few people, thus less new stuff on the train, we knew what to order this time around and had some great stuff. We really enjoy their squid-ball yakitori. And their salmon is very tasty too.
posted by Peter
So, as for the rest of Tuesday, Day #3 of the Brisbane Chronicles:
I had a kebab for lunch, not very turkish, but very yummy. They have developed kebab making into a well greased production process, similar to "Subways" sandwiches. I returned to the hotel, taking pictures of all those colorful boxes below:
And now, what may that be? According to some article I somewhat read (half), these are the traffic light control boxes (thus one on each street corner) and they had the fab idea to have local artists paint them. Pretty neat idea, much better than the regular grey ... in some cases the artists tried to find some connection to the location, like the lady with the shopping car is close to a supermarket ... I saw one which tried to blend it in with the marble of the building in the back, but that looked just weird.
I left the hotel again right away to try a new mode of transportation, the ferries! There are several different ones. Smaller, slower boats for the river crossings and more short distance travel, and then there is the "CityCat" ... a fairly fast thing, which only does express stops. So first I took a smaller one to get to Southbank again, and here is a little 1 minute video clip of that trip, nice pics of the skyline, and visual proof that it is not always sunny there. On my way back I too the CityCat and noticed the speed difference .. very nice.
Back at the hotel at 4 PM and the room was not made up yet ... grrrr ... So I went out to find a closer supermarket and returned aroung 5 and Ritsu came at 5:12 PM ... and the cleaning people finally came at 5:30 ... yeah ...
We the headed to another sushi place called "Sushi Station" ... why all those kaiten sushi places need a train reference ??? Well .. if some place needs it .. it is this one ... food does not go around on a conveyor belt ... but on a large model train!!! ... which causes an interesting dilemma ... at other places you keep a constant eye on the belt, to not miss anything that might be of interest ... in this case .. once the train is gone, it takes about 2 minutes until it passes you again .. which gives extra time to conversation, but can be frustrating if you are really hungry ... but then again, just ask the sushi chef and tell him what you want ... We had: Tuna, Snapper, Salmon, Ikura, Scallop and Unagi Nigiri Sushi, Fishball and Chicken Yakitori, and Inari. Very nice, so .. we plan an going back .. the waitress was a bit puzzled when we asked for those little bowls to put your soy sauce in ... i mean .. that we even had to ask was weird ...
We then headed again to Southbank to the theatre and enjoyed the Musical "Sweeny Todd" .. quite well done, eyecandy, interesting story ... some semi plotholes I still try to figure out ... But for us it was a marvolous treat ..
Trip back home was the fast CityCat ferry, this time a first for Ritsu .. she enjoyed it a lot. We are planning a longer trip on that boat .. maybe tomorrow night to go for dinner.
As a little goodnight thing: Here is the moon over Storey Bridge, just a few hours ago .
Last night we went to Oshin, according to Brisbane's Citysearch Website the "must go" place for japanese food. We had scallop yakitori (skewers), Buto no Kakuni (pork cubes), mixed sashimi and the some tuna and salmon roe sushi. While it was better than Sushi Train (which should not be too hard), we have yet to find the one place we want to go to several times (Like "Makoto" back in Sydney). We also found it a bit pricy (Sushi between 6.60 and 8.80 AUD). But we had a good time. Afterwards we tried one of the very cool features of our hotel: The rooftop spa! They also have a sauna and a BBQ up there, but we have not tried those. Relaxing in warm bubbling water and taking in the Brisbane skyline (though only from the 8th floor) is a really nice thing.
Tired, but just not tired enough, I enjoyed something that I can hardly do in Fiji: zapping through TV channels (with that one channel we have in Fiji, it is not that much fun) ... and I actually stopped at something that I would never have watched back in the USA: The Jerry Springer Show !!! It was quite entertaining, especially wondering what the Australian viewers must think about Americans when watching that. Actually surprising that a show like Springer is shown elsewhere in the world .... but they also show Ricki Lake.
And this is what it looks like when I am hanging out at the Q Street Mall (in this case at "Pig'N Whistle") and use the online connection. Pics taken with my iSight cam.