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This was written in early July 2004
 
G'day all!
 
The city wonder-lust that I have always had has been well and truly fed here in Brisbane. I have been here just over two weeks and have settled into this place a little too easily. The weather has been perfect – blue skies, beaming sun, but not achingly hot…like a perfect English summer’s day – and yes, this is their winter. The city is easy to get around, and I have been walking a lot. I walk into the city and often meet Amanda from work and we'll walk back to her place which is in Paddington, a northern suburb.
 
One of the first things that struck me as I was walking around is how clean it is. The streets have no litter, not even cigarette butts (smokers put them out on the ashtrays at the side of the bins)…everything is clean, and even the buses, which are powered by natural gas, don't choke you when you walk past them as in England. That plus the beautiful sun seems to leave the Brisbanites constantly in a laid-back and friendly mood – people seem genuinely pleased to see you. At first, it really took me back a bit…I walked into 7-11 to get a bottle of water and the guy serving beamed and asked me how I was. After a while though it permeates you and you just take everything down a notch.
 
It’s a proper city – with choice and variety everywhere you look. I went in search of refreshment on my first day of exploration and was pleasantly surprised to find that you can get very good latte, made with soy milk, even in the smallest corner coffee outlet. Reeling from that, I ordered a large caramel latte, only to find I was offered three different types of soy milk! I have also become a regular at the juice bars – which can whisk you up one of a huge array of juices, and in doing so make you feel quite angelic for being so healthy!
 
My first week here seemed to be dominated by the English losing things. I was dragged out of bed at 4am to watch the England v Portugal game at the pub. I have never made it to the pub that early before (Microsoft workmates, you'd be proud of me!). I had just about woken up by the end of my first Bacardi, although I wasn't sure that I looked any better than the English there that had obviously been up drinking all night. At the weekend we went to the SunCorp stadium to watch the Wallabies play England at rugby. The stadium had just over 52,000 people – and the atmosphere was awesome. There were huge swathes of yellow and green jerseys and just a few pockets of white and red shirts (including myself). After the English defeat we obviously had to hold our heads up while we headed to the Irish bar for the rest of the evening!
 
Brisbane is on the east coast of Auz, sort of in the middle of Cairns and Sydney and is flanked by huge stretches of beaches on either side – the Sunshine coast and the Gold coast. I have been out and about in the surrounding area a lot. You have to drive to these places; the space between everything is amazing. The horizons are vast, huge pine and eucalyptus forests with mountains being the back-drop. I visited Australia Zoo, which is the one created by the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. After seeing all the animals we actually saw Steve Irwin in the car park! I have had several chilled breaks including the beach – lots of sunbathing, clear sea, surf club meals and taking in the local shops.
 
I had been really looking forward to the seafood here and it has lived up to my expectations. Last weekend, we got an apartment up the coast and had oysters and king prawns on the balcony looking out to the sea. We then took the 'all-you-can-eat' concept to the extreme at a hotel on the river in the city to celebrate Amanda's birthday. I had 5 plates piled high with oysters, prawns, mussels, scallops, crab, and a local seafood called 'Moreton Bag Bug' which is like a mini-lobster.
 
Yesterday, I took a trip north to visit Fraser Island. Fraser is the largest sand island in the world at just under 200kms long. A rugged looking Australian drove me in a 4WD around the island on the sand tracks and along the 75 mile beach that lines one of its coasts. The beach (yes, 75 miles of it!) was gorgeous, but there is no swimming there at all because of the over-friendly local sharks…such a bummer as it was one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen. The island seems to have its fair share of dangerous animals – we saw a dingo hunting just as the sun was going down. Going inland we entered a dense rainforest, with 70 metre-high trees. I thought it was amazing that these huge trees grow in the sand. Later, I noticed that the tracks that the jeeps follow had been named – we almost got bogged down in the sand right by a sign that read 'M4'….and I couldn't help thinking how different the journey was from my morning trek into Reading on the tracks name-sake!
 
I leave Brisbane to fly to Sydney tomorrow, and I will miss this city. I have really relaxed here, loving my days wandering around the city in the sun, with a wistful smile and my juice in hand – people watching and window shopping (well, mostly window – I seem to have spent almost my entire Australia budget on one skirt…whoops!). It's also been great to see Amanda again. I have lots planned for my swift three days in Sydney…including climbing Sydney harbour bridge on Saturday afternoon!
 
Lots of love,
 
Alison
xxx

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