Brisbane, Brissie and Brisvegas

A Euro-perspective of Queensland’s capital city.

Ever since I came to Australia, Brisbane has been my City of blinding lights.

Only 200Km north from where I live, it’s the place where stuff happens and the landscape changes by the day…or night.

gionny riding a lime scooter in Brisbane
Brissie – Portrait of the artist as a Lime scooter rider.

Welcome to Brisbane

For me, there’s always been two ways of getting there.

Via the M1 heading north, where the skyline appears ten kilometers from the CBD, which tells me it’s good to tune into 4ZZZ, the almighty community radio station where some good friends play the tunes, and others have done so in the past.

The second gateway to Brisbane is Brissie International Airport, where many of my work trips either begin or end. When the wind comes from the west, the landing takes a scenic turn over the Pacific and Moreton bay, a great sight.

Moreton Bay, seen from an aircraft
Brisbane International Airport – turning over Moreton Bay.

Instead of 4ZZZ, here I usually get a special welcome from the Border force.

Because of my affiliation with Greenpeace and the times I’ve been in custody, I get taken out of the line and given special treatment, a shit-show worth my tax money, so, I usually use it as an opportunity for a political statement:

Border Force: “Hey you, is there anything else you wish to tell us, any convictions you haven’t declared?”

Gionny: “Nope.”

Border Force: “You know mate, you should really consider becoming a citizen”

Gionny: “Only on the day Australia becomes a Republic and implements a treaty with the Indigenous people.”

Border Force: “right…mmm…. mmm” (he/she wasn’t programmed for this sort of answers).

Then the conversation takes the patronising turn:

Border Force: “Mate, if you have lied about your convictions, I will get Immigration to re-evaluate your resident visa”

Gionny: “yeah, go for it mate, be my guest”

Border Force: Yeaaah, ya go mate… (Which sounds more like “go fuck yourself asshole”).

I know I’m a bit of an asshole, but I love to push their buttons a little bit. As they have finished warning me for my mischiefs of the past, I’m free! Just one more sniff from the Beagles at the custom desk and the sliding doors are opening over the arrival hall.

Anyway, let’s get back to the main thread here…

Brisbane is a city of many identities and it might become Brisvegas, from one corner to the next, when you least expect it. 

The blinding lights and flash of a world class city, which is home to yuppies, ravers, cattle farmers and fly in/fly out miners, unveils all its faces in a few well-known venues, worth a Dark and Stormy or a more classy Mojito, depending where you stand.

My initiation to this place of parallel sub-cultures was the Breakfast Creek Hotel, a classic Australian pub, not far from the airport, which modern necessities have changed in order to accommodate all vibes.

Business at the front, party out the back

We’re starting from the back this time, which is how I was introduced to the place, where you’ve got the classic old fashioned and a bit run down country pub: Four X Gold on tap, rough interiors and a concrete floor… just in case the locals are getting rough and the morning cleaning will require the removal of blood and vomit.

picture of the Breakfast creek hotel in Brisbane
Brisvegas – The Brekkie creek hotel in all its splendour.

However, as you enter the front salon, the picture dramatically changes into a modern-chic bar, where fully suited professionals are sipping Cosmopolitans and ordering oysters and champagne before dinner.

You choose where you want to spend the evening!

You might go out of the door intoxicated by Champagne or might just go out trough the window, pushed by one of the other patrons.

Brisbane – The Showground 

The Brisbane Showground is a massive complex, which is used for agricultural events and where the livestock is displayed for sale.

However, the same space where chickens and cows are common sight is also used for musical events.

I had never seen a live performance of Iron Maiden or Slayer in my youth as they rarely came to Italy, but in my 30s I was able to see them at the Showground!

Sure you can buy a ticket, but be prepared for a full inspection at the gate, where every drink will be confiscated and you can enjoy responsibly the low alcohol beer sold at the venue.

The bar is a shipping container and drink tickets are to be purchased from another container, guarded like Fort Knox. But only max three tickets at a time!

Ah and drinking while having a smoke or vice versa might be sanctioned. No Loitering and please, be gone before 1am.

Brisvegas is eclectic also when it comes to accommodation choices.

My favourite two examples are the opposite on a spectrum with extreme cool (bordering tacky) at one end and crap (bordering illegal) at the other end.

The Bluetongue Backpackers deluxe 

A few years back I came to Brissie for a cycling event, held at night. I needed a cheap place to stay and sleep before and after the event. 

As I didn’t want to spend much, I booked a room at the very central Bluetongue Backpackers. And, YES, I was totally fooled by the pictures and the $30 a night.

My “deluxe” room had no windows and only one power socket. The bed was not massive and occupied the whole room. It was hot as only January can be. 

So far no big deal, I’ve done that before and much worse. However, what was seriously wrong was the mattress and pillow, which both reeked of sweat and other human fluids. 

There were also no towels and the angry French lady at the reception was not keen on giving me one…so I had to dry myself with my sweaty cycling kit.

This was the first time in my life I’ve experienced how sleeping nestled under an armpit smells alike, all for just 30 bucks.

The Glamorous Tryp 

Totally opposite from the Bluetongue was a night at the Tryp Hotel, which I booked before a tour of duties in Europe.

It wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t the Hilton either and I would totally recommend it if you’re into a cool experience of some decadence.

I love Jacuzzis, who doesn’t? And when they come with a large TV on your room’s private balcony, you can just add a bottle of bubbles to make me happy as a clam.

The place has a serious funky-stylish atmosphere and each room is a bit different from another.

However, victim of the decadence, I was overjoyed by the mini-bar and racked up a potentially massive bill, so, I had to sneak in the morning to a bottle shop and replenish the fridge at a more human price.

Brisbane, Brissie and Brisvegas. There is much more to tell about them and my Australian friends will certainly agree, but I’ll leave it for another episode.

I don’t know which face of the city is my favourite and I recommend a visit, so you can tell me which one is yours.

Once you fly in, don’t forget to tell the Border Force you’re one of my friends!!

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