Redcliffe

13 05 2008

Once a booming holiday spot, with the advent of fast cars and trains to the coast-with-surf, Redcliffe has become quiet. During the week, anyway. Weekends still find this seaside suburb filled with young families looking for a cheap but fun day out. But in my opinion, Redcliffe is still a beautiful location, well worth a visit from tourists and locals alike. It’s a perfect distance for a day trip, and the atmosphere is usually pleasantly relaxed and unpretentious.

People new to Brisbane are often taken unawares by our ‘beaches’. They look all nice and sandy, until you wade into the water and find your feet sinking into a few inches of black, slimy mud. Eurgh. Bit of a shock to the system at first. Redcliffe, while it abounds in mud, also has an old-fashioned tidal pool – meaning a designated, built swimming area which is refreshed with new seawater each time the tide comes in. Bliss. No stonefish.

There are a number of cafes and the occasional fast food place. If you venture away from the water a block, you’ll find more standard shops – a Coles and a few others.

Getting There

By public transport, the trip is fairly easy. The 315 bus leaves from Queen St (other side of Creek St from the Mall) and goes straight to Redcliffe. Sadly, it doesn’t swing by the jetty, but if you ask the driver nicely he should drop you off at a convenient place to either walk or catch a connecting bus. Your other option is a train to Sandgate, then the 690 bus to the jetty.

The Scenery

I don’t consider myself a fantastic photographer – but this scenery is extremely forgiving. Check out some of my happy snaps:





Public Transport – Going to Toowoomba

24 03 2008

I’m going to ignore the obvious question of ‘Why the hell would you want to go to Toowoomba?’ Apparently some people like it there. Frankly, I think they’re lying. But it’s worth a visit, even just for the opportunity to be grateful you didn’t grow up there.

What I am going to cover is how to get there, and back.

Car

Just drive there, you goit. It takes around an hour (sometimes two, depending on traffic) to get there.

Train

Wait until a Tuesday or a Thursday, and catch the Westlander from Roma Street, Corinda or Ipswich rail stations. You’ll need to book in advance. The journey takes 4 hours from Brisbane to Toowoomba. Rumour has it that horses can do it faster, fed enough oats.

If this option does actually interest you, check out the Traveltrain website for more information.

Bus

If you don’t have a car (owned or hired), then this is the most sensible method of transport. It will take 1.5-2.5 hours to travel by bus, depending on how many towns it stops in. As far as companies go, you have a few different options (be aware that these will tend to change every 6-12 months, so make sure you have updated information):

Toowoomba Transit Coaches
They don’t run very frequently, but they’re cheap and fairly reliable. Usually uncrowded, so on an average day you’ve a good chance of being able to walk up, pay for a ticket and jump on. They don’t run on some public holidays, so check before blithely making assumptions.

Greyhound
Run far more often, and have gotten up my nose by running most of their competition into the ground then raising ticket prices as soon as they have a monopoly. Fairly standard business tactic, I know – but it still sucks. Ticket prices can vary wildly month to month due to aforementioned tactic. Often expensive, sometimes ridiculously cheap. They usually run a reduced number of services on public holidays.

Toowoomba Airport Flyer
By far the most expensive option of the lot, but also the most convenient IF you’re coming from Brisbane airport. It’s a fairly standard airport shuttle service – door-to-door service etc.





Southbank – Tourist Trap and Full of Crap? (Part 2)

17 03 2008

Smack-bang under Southbank Cinemas is a place that is a must to try if you’re a fan of hot chocolate, coffee, tea, herbal tea, or iced versions of any of the above… or, for that matter, of homewares and timber furniture. Batavia, run by the very friendly Cindy Walker, is a strange but engaging combination of Fair Trade homewares shop and Tea Salon.

Batavia (small)

The Tea Salon

Batavia specifically styles its food and drink section as a ‘Tea Salon’, rather than a cafe. Patrons are encouraged to relax, socialise, and have some fun. Boardgames are available, or you can bring your own. Obviously, during peak business periods it would probably be appreciated if you weren’t quite as leisurely.

Drinks

The prices will seem steep on first perusal of the menu. But there’s a good reason for that. Most cafes will serve you a hot mocha in a glass or mug. Batavia serves you an entire tray:

Hot Mocha

(note: that ‘teacup’ is, in fact, almost soup-mug sized)

The jugs for a hot mocha (pictured) contain hot chocolate, hot brewed coffee, and milk. While the ingredients for each drink obviously differ, they’re all generously proportioned. A couple include a mound of icecream nearly filling said soup mug. If you’re just a bit peckish, you may find that one of these mugs is all you need.

Teas are high quality, and there are some exquisite and unusual offerings.

Food

Batavia’s food menu consists of fairly common cafe items – cake, biscuits, focaccias, soup. However, they all have the distinctive Batavia twist that turns them into something special. There are several options available when ordering a slice of cake – from just the cake to icecream, handmade chocolates and biscuits in accompaniment. Beware – the largest option is an extremely sweet meal in itself.

I have one perennial favourite dish at Batavia – the biscuits. They’re served on a very swish serving dish (designed to fit around the huge trays for the drinks – clever eh?) with a bowl of chocolate dipping sauce. Decadence. *drooool*

Wares

Batavia sell all sorts of stuff. Most eye-catching are the pieces of solid timber furniture – they range from gorgeous to gorgeous and comfortable. As I mentioned earlier, it’s all Fair Trade, meaning that the craftspeople producing it actually got a decent price for their work. Cushion covers, scarves, journals, vases and jewellery are just some of the items you’ll find in here.

They also sell the teas served in the Tea Salon.





Public Transport – Which Ticket?

10 03 2008

Public Transport

If you’re looking for a basic introduction to Brisbane’s ticketing system, see Public Transport – Buying a Ticket. It explains integrated fares and zoning.

Translink currently offer a range of tickets, all of which suit different needs. The question is – which one is right for you?

go card

This card has received a lot of publicity recently, partly because of the huge problems encountered by Translink in getting it working and rolled out. It’s been available to the general public since 21 February – long enough to have generated a lot of conversation. While it’s convenient to some, others have found it an expensive annoyance.

Convenience Factors – No zone restrictions (can be used almost anywhere in the Translink network). Makes carrying cash unnecessary.

Usage Restrictions – Not currently accepted on Airtrain, Laidley Bus or Surfside Bus services.

Price Options – No discounts are applied for off-peak travel. If you’re a regular public transport user, your first 6 trips in a week will be charged at full price. You’ll then receive a 50% discount on all trips for the remainder of the week. ‘Week’, in this case, is designated Monday to Sunday. So if you make those 6 trips on Thursday- Saturday, then you’ll pay full price again on Monday. For a standard 5 days/wk 2 trips/day traveller, this works out the same price as a weekly or ten-trip ticket. For anyone else, it could work out far more expensive.

go card Top-ups – Top-ups via credit card are available via the website or phone. May (read ‘most probably will’) take 48 hours to process. So this is not a quick “Whoops I need more money on my go card” option. Top-ups are also available at rail stations (EFTPOS or cash) and should be applied immediately.

Automatic Fines – If you forget to touch your card when leaving a bus, ferry or station, a fine will be automatically removed from your card. Ditto if the card reader isn’t working. At the moment the fine is $5 for an adult train passenger, less for bus passengers and concession holders. The current plan is to double the fine later in the year. This is non-refundable, although in theory a non-working card reader would get you a refund.

Paper Tickets

Single – This allows you to travel on as many services as you need to in order to take the shortest route from one location to another, within the specified zones.

Daily – A daily ticket is double the price of a single for the same zones, and allows you to travel all day in the zones specified, as many times as you want. If you have a zones 1-7, for example, you could travel from Ipswich to Brisbane City to Redcliffe and back.

Off-peak Daily – Exactly the same as a daily, but only valid on weekends, or on weekdays from 9am to 3:30pm and after 7pm. It’s 75% of the price of the equivalent daily.

Weekly Ticket – A weekly ticket costs the same as 8 single trips in the specified zones. For example, a single ticket for zones 1-3 costs $3.20. A zones 1-3 weekly ticket costs $25.60. It is valid for an unlimited number of trips for 7 days from the issue of the ticket.

Ten-Trip Ticket – A ten-trip ticket costs the same as a weekly ticket. Where it differs from a weekly is that it allows you only ten trips within the zones specified, but does not limit you to a specific time period (ie, doesn’t expire after a week). In theory, it allows you to transfer from one service to another as part of your trip without charging you for another trip. But they seem to be keyed to direction of travel. If the first service you get on is travelling toward the city, and you get off in the city and catch one away from the city, you may find yourself overcharged. Keep an eye out. These tickets are valid for Brisbane City Council buses and ferries only – not for trains or private bus companies.

Price Comparisons

Scenario 1

John travels from Ipswich to the city every weekday for work. He usually goes to the Valley on a Saturday night, and sometimes goes to Southport (on the Gold Coast) on a Sunday. Because he doesn’t have a car, he uses public transport for all of his travel.

go card – John will pay $5 per trip for the first three days of the week – $30. He’ll then pay half-price for the remainder of the week – $10 for the rest of his weekday travel, $5 for his visit to the Valley, and $8.40 for his trip to and from Helensvale station. He’ll need to buy a paper ticket to travel any further on Surfside Bus Lines, because they haven’t integrated the go card readers yet – another $4.80 for a 3-zone off-peak daily ticket.

Paper Tickets – John would buy a weekly ticket for zones 1-7, as he typically makes more than 10 trips per week. This will cost him $40, and cover his weekday travel, his trip to the Valley, and part of his Gold Coast trip. The extra cost for the remaining part of his Gold Coast trip (zones 8-13) will cost him $6.90 for an off-peak daily ticket.

Week’s travel cost using the go card – $58.20
Week’s travel cost using paper tickets – $46.90

Scenario 2

Alison and Frank live in Beenleigh. Alison works 3 days a week in Yeerongpilly, and gets a lift home on average one of those nights. Her husband Frank works Monday-Friday in the city and uses public transport every weekday to get to work and home again. They have a car, and use it for weekend travel and grocery shopping.

go card – Alison pays full fare for each of her 5 trips – $4.10 per trip, $20.50 per week. Frank pays full fare for his first six trips – $5 per trip, $30. He then pays half-price for the rest of the week – 4 trips at $2.50 per trip, $10.

Paper Tickets – Alison buys daily tickets for 2 days of the week – $8.20 per day – and a single ticket the other day – $4.10. Frank buys a weekly ticket – $40.

Week’s travel cost using the go card – $60.50
Week’s travel cost using paper tickets – $60.50

Scenario 3

Sally lives in Toowong. She has two jobs – one in Milton on Monday-Wednesday, one in Sandgate on Friday-Saturday. She uses public transport only to get to and from work.

go card – Sally pays full fare for each of her trips to and from work in Milton – $2.30 per trip, $13.80 per week. She pays half-price for each of her trips to and from Sandgate – $1.80 per trip, $7.20 per week.

Paper Tickets – Sally buys a daily ticket each weekday that she works – $4.60 x 3, plus $7.20. She buys an offpeak daily – $5.40 – for the Saturday trip out to Sandgate and back.

Week’s travel cost using the go card – $21.00
Week’s travel cost using paper tickets – $26.40

Conclusion

Rare though Sally’s situation might be, it is possible to save money using a go card instead of the traditional paper tickets. People in a situation to do so will typically live fairly close to their workplace, work at least 3 days a week, and travel a comparatively long distance at least once a week. Others – perhaps a large number of people – will find that the go card is the same price and more convenient than paper tickets. Frequent public transport users, though, may well find that their ticketing costs would be significantly higher with the GO Card. Do the maths, check your situation out for yourself, and find the solution which works for you.

More Information

Check out these sites for more information on the go card and opinions from users:

Official go card information site
Brisbane Times readers’ opinions
Discussions on Back on Track Forum





Wildlife Watch: Butterflies

5 03 2008

I’m hopeless at photographing butterflies. I think it takes patience. I’m not good at patience.  So I was impressed when this little guy gave me huge amounts of time to take his photo. Apparently this variety do that a lot.

I’m 99% sure he’s a Meadow Argus. Feel free to disagree with me, though.

Meadow Argus Butterfly





Southbank – Tourist Trap and Full of Crap? (Part 1)

3 03 2008

Well, maybe. But lurking behind the strange building layout and the large amounts of crappy fast food lie some treasures. This was originally going to be a single article, but when the first section got to three paragraphs, I realised that that idea wasn’t going to work. Instead, this could turn into a right little series, with 4 parts at last counting.

Southbank Cinemas

I first discovered the Southbank Cinema a few years ago. See, occasionally a company irritates me so much that I’ll decide to boycott, and lemme tell you – I can really hold a grudge. BC&C managed to get on my really really bad side when they banned outside food from their premises. Public indemnity risk. BULLSHIT. The choice – accept the dictatorial edict, meekly buy ridiculously-overpriced CRAP to eat and thank them for the privilege of using their cinemas? Nuh uh. I’m far too stubborn for that sort of thing. So off I trotted to the independents – and with a cinema like this on hand, who the hell would want to go to BC&C?

Southbank Cinemas offer a great movie-going experience at a surprisingly low price. Adults get in at a maximum $7.90 (cheaper during the day on weekdays), children at $4. When you consider that BC&C charge around $15 for adults and $10 for children, you can see why they’re so popular. The savings extend to food, too. While it isn’t really cheap, the prices look fantastic when compared with BC&C’s gouging. And of course, outside food is permitted. To a point – hot food and drinks probably won’t be appreciated. The screens are well-sized – except for the screen left over from the days when this was the Imax Cinema. It’s FREAKING HUGE and is usually used for the just-released blockbusters. With good reason – it’s great to watch those big special effects on.

One warning – if you’re with a group, or you’re picky about where you sit, check which cinema your movie will be in. If it’s in the big Imax screen (Cinema 5), you’ll want to get there about an hour early. Take a book, pack of cards, food, whatever, and start lining up in the passageway outside. Trust me on this one. Turn up 10 minutes beforehand and you risk sitting on the edge of a row, scattered to the winds and unable to share snacks. And that just sucks.

Go to the Cineplex website to get information on movies showing, session times, or to buy tickets and popcorn online.





Doing the Trendy in Milton

27 02 2008

I must admit that when I first moved to Brisbane, I was shocked at what rates as a ‘trendy cafe spot’. I heard about Park Rd in Milton and expected… umm, lots of nice-looking, trendy cafes and restaurants. Instead, I found 4 cafes (one of them a Coffee Club, for crying out loud!) and a miniature Eiffel Tower. Oh, and some highly-priced stores selling truly hideous clothes.

Mini Eiffel Tower

Ten years later, I’ve acclimatised a bit. The Eiffel Tower is kinda cute, especially at night. And night’s when this little street starts popping. Loud music, fairy lights… the grime and faded paint are hidden and it all looks almost classy.

If you come here in the early morning, you’ll be dodging cyclists galore. I’m not sure where they come from, but they all end their pre-work rides at one or two cafes, lounging around sipping coffee with their padded groins prominently displayed.

During the day, this area seems incredibly popular with mothers of small children. Presumably fairly cashed-up mums, as they’re typically pushing a Bugaboo or top-of-the-line jogger pram. I think they’re a little nuts – trying to walk along the footpath is hard enough without pushing a pram. Not to mention the parking issues – but each to their own, eh?

Parking

If I could make one recommendation that you’d listen to, it’d be – don’t. Don’t even try. There’s a bare minimum of street parking, which is usually filled by 8am. The streets are filled with people maundering around the block for ‘one last try’ and driving like absolute imbeciles because they’re so flipping bored and stressed. It’s only a matter of time before car insurers start inserting ‘not valid in Milton’ into the fine print. It’s that bad. If you can possibly bring yourself to it, do us all a favour and take public transport. Milton train station is a very short walk, and buses stop on Coronation Drive (river end of Park Rd) and Milton Rd (other end).

The Coffee

I’ll admit it right now – when it comes to Milton I’m a Hot Mocha fan. Mostly because they’re really, really hard to stuff up. But my more adventurous friends assure me that all the cafes in this strip do a nice coffee. I wouldn’t consider them top of the line, by any means – but they’re nice, not burnt, not bitter. The Coffee Club probably rates somewhere near the bottom in this category. Surprisingly, one of the best coffees I’ve had in Milton came from a little sandwich shop down Railway Street called Niftys. Go figure.

The Hot Chocolate

One of these cafes – La Dolce Vita – does a reputedly fantastic italian hot chocolate. I say ‘reputedly’, because I don’t drink milk. And these babies are made the proper way, with chocolate melted into milk. Full of fat, but frankly, if you’re watching your weight that much you shouldn’t be drinking hot chocolate anyhow. Right?

The Food

I’m a vegetarian. No apologies or shame. So if you’re looking for steak recommendations, you’ve come to the wrong damn blog.

For a vegetarian, the choices aren’t too bad. Even if you don’t like cheese. Here are my recommendations:

The Taste of Kashmir. This is a fairly new addition, and I hope it’ll survive. While its food is tasty and well-priced, it’s located in the bad-luck-central building where nothing seems to do well. The Aloo Patak is to die for.

The Coffee Club do a very nice Roast Pumpkin and Spinach salad.

Arrivederci Pizza across the road have some vegetarian options. Fairly boring and predictable ones. They’re pricey, but then so is most of the street.

The sushi place has the standard vegetarian options – avocado rolls, inari, spring rolls. Uninspired, but relatively cheap.

Wander across Milton Rd and down to the Spice Market. Yes, they do sell spices. They also sell big, filling asian dishes. Their food is the sort you eat when you want something decent and fairly cheap. Nowhere near top nosh, but good for the price. The service is possibly the best in Milton.

Niftys do down-to-earth, standard Aussie lunch type tucker. That means sandwiches, burgers (including a vegie burger) and fried food. For the area, they’re cheap. And the sandwich proportions are generous – you don’t get the impression that the slices of various foods are audited at the end of the day and staff warned if they’ve been ‘overly generous’. Four slices of tomato on a sandwich, for example.

Unexpected Sights

For the history buffs amongst us, there’s a historic building nestled away between Coronation Drive and Park Rd. John McDougall – who at one point owned most of the inner western suburbs (Indooroopilly etc) – bought the house from a chemist who’d had it built the year before. This is a gorgeous old house, but I’m yet to discover if the public can actually get into it. See its heritage listing for more information.

Milton House

Milton House can be found at 52 McDougall St. Right next to the tennis court is a path through the garden, created by the many people who work in the complex (King’s Row). Unless there’s a function on, visiting is unlikely to be a problem.

Map

Milton