Girl­friends on the go

Dis­cover the best of Bris­bane re­tail with a clued-up com­pan­ion

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - MICHELLE ROWE

FRUIT­LESS shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences in Eastern Europe gave Amanda Kruse the im­pe­tus for a new busi­ness that high­lights the best of Bris­bane re­tail. Af­ter traips­ing around Prague and fail­ing to find the bou­tique shop­ping and din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences she’d heard so much about, Kruse ap­proached the concierge at her ho­tel.

‘‘I asked him where his girl­friend shopped, where she ate and liked to go for cof­fee,’’ she says. ‘‘He didn’t seem to un­der­stand me, but the next morn­ing there was a knock at my door and it was the same guy with a young woman be­hind him. He pointed to her and said: ‘You go with girl­friend.’ ’’

What fol­lowed was a day of dis­cov­ery — ex­plor­ing the hid­den back­streets of the Czech cap­i­tal, fer­ret­ing through racks of cloth­ing by up-and­com­ing lo­cal de­sign­ers and stop­ping at funky cafes off the tourist trail.

‘‘We had the best time,’’ says Kruse, who has worked in the tourism in­dus­try for more than two decades. ‘‘So I re­alised that this was what I’d needed in all my years of trav­el­ling — a ‘girl­friend’, a per­son who knows all those lit­tle lo­cal spots and can show me around a new city.’’

Now Kruse is that ‘ ‘ girl­friend’’, in­tro­duc­ing out-of-town­ers who want more than high-street chains and tourist-trap din­ing spots to an­other side of the Queens­land cap­i­tal. Her Bris­bane’s Hid­den Gems tours cover three of the city’s vi­brant neigh­bour­hoods: eclec­tic For­ti­tude Val­ley north­east of the city cen­tre; Padding­ton, with its an­tiques shops and streets lined with tra­di­tional Queens­lan­der houses; and the tucked-away en­claves of Bris­bane’s CBD.

The re­laxed three-hour guided walks cater for both se­ri­ous shop­pers and those who sim­ply want to get their bear­ings. Kruse rec­om­mends morn­ing ex­cur­sions so guests can dou­ble back later and spend more time at places of most in­ter­est.

Dur­ing our ‘‘get­ting to know you’’ cof­fee and cake at Deb and Bien Per­alta’s en­tic­ing Dello Mano choco­late bou­tique in For­ti­tude Val­ley, Kruse and I dis­cover we share a sim­i­lar taste in fash­ion, so she tai­lors my pro­gram ac­cord­ingly. This morn­ing we will take in the high­lights of The Val­ley, known for its cool bars and restau­rants and creative en­ergy; to­mor­row, we will head to Padding­ton, to ex­plore its pretty cafes, book­stores and sec­ond­hand em­po­ri­ums.

We climb a small stair­case in a con­verted build­ing on Brunswick Street to Fal­low — the antler-han­dled front door and gold chaise lounge on the land­ing hint at the off­beat fash­ions and trin­kets to be found in­side.

Just around the cor­ner on Ann Street, in a shop­ping strip show­cas­ing sev­eral lo­cal de­sign­ers, we un­earth fash­ions to suit ev­ery­one from the toocool-for-school teen to the glamorous fifty- some­thing. I make a note to re­turn to Dogstar, with Asian-in­spired de­signs from Bris­bane-based Masayo Ya­suki, and to Maioc­chi, with its vi­brant prints and frocks from an­other lo­cal fash­ion­ista, Deanne May­oc­chi.

At Lib­er­tine Par­fumerie, an ex­quis­ite fra­grance bou­tique in nearby Robert­son Street, man­ager Natalie Wil­ton pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into some of the most ex­clu­sive brands, from Lu­bin’s Black Jade, the last fra­grance worn by Marie An­toinette, to Fleuris­simo, the blend Monaco’s Prince Rainier had perfume house Creed cre­ate for Grace Kelly to wear on their wed­ding day.

Kruse’s tours can in­clude a masterclass, in which Wil­ton and her team pro­vide guests with a brief his­tory of perfume and ad­vise on how to choose the per­fect match.

In Padding­ton the next day, it’s a very dif­fer­ent scene. The Val­ley’s cool, grungy vibe has given way to un­du­lat­ing, leafy streets, dot­ted with Queens­lan­ders con­verted into up­mar­ket din­ing spots and bou­tiques and his­tor­i­cal build­ings. (I could spend hours in Padding­ton An­tique Cen­tre, a cor­nu­copia of pre-loved goods in an old cin­ema com­plex.)

Kruse is a fun and in­for­ma­tive com­pan­ion as she guides me past the chain stores and into more ex­clu­sive out­lets. It’s clear she is en­joy­ing the ex­peri- ence, tak­ing on the role of that trusted girl­friend who will let you know that your bum re­ally does look big in that ill-ad­vised velvet cat­suit and rec­om­mend­ing in­stead key wardrobe pieces from her favourite lo­cal de­sign­ers.

At Adorn­ments on La­trobe Ter­race, a repos­i­tory of ev­ery­thing from vin­tage jewellery and furs to col­lectible porce­lain, we coo over ex­quis­ite beaded cock­tail purses. In the chic Hamp­tons Home Liv­ing, a cafe cum home­wares store, we take a seat on the back ve­randa for a cof­fee.

Then to the quirky High Main­te­nance, down a small stair­case off Given Ter­race, where we are greeted by Monika Neilen, a vi­sion in pink clutch­ing a bot­tle of sparkling wine. At once nail bar, hair­dresser, beauty salon and fash­ion bou­tique, High Main­te­nance is a wel­come sanc­tu­ary for se­ri­ous shop­pers and the last stop on our tour.

‘‘We want to pro­vide a re­laxed and chilled at­mos­phere and per­son­alised ser­vice,’’ says Neilen. ‘‘When you’re time-poor, you can’t get to sep­a­rate ap­point­ments to have your nails and hair and eye­brows done, and not ev­ery­body likes big salons.’’

Neilen pops me on a recliner, slips a gold-coloured col­la­gen eye mask on my face and pours us all a glass of fizz as I lie back and think of my next Bris­bane shopathon. Michelle Rowe was a guest of Queens­land Hol­i­days and Hil­ton Bris­bane. T&I’s Re­gional Shop­per se­ries starts next week.

PIC­TURES: MICHELLE ROWE

Clock­wise from left, Natalie Wil­ton of Lib­er­tine Par­fumerie; guide Amanda Kruse; High Main­te­nance’s Monika Neilen; Jan Bartlett at Adorn­ments; and Hamp­tons Home Liv­ing

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