Get­ting there

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - DISCOVER BRISBANE -

stump stools and watch staff at work in the open kitchen.

Loel, a pas­sion­ate foodie, says Bris­bane is not a city that fol­lows trends like Syd­ney and Mel­bourne.

But there is some ev­i­dence it is in­creas­ingly em­brac­ing the laneway trend that has proven so suc­cess­ful in the south­ern cap­i­tal. Long-for­got­ten Bur­nett Lane, a lit­tle-used de­liv­ery route off the Queen Street Mall, is home to new cafe bar Brew. The lane was the first to open in the CBD and has a cool graf­fiti trib­ute to its name­sake, sur­veyor Charles Bur­nett, lin­ing one of its walls.

In the in­ner-city night­club hub Vir­gin Aus­tralia, Qan­tas and Jetstar fly to Bris­bane. Bris­bane’s Air­train is a quick and easy way to get to and from the air­port. Tick­ets costs $15 or $13.50 if you buy online. See air­train.com.au

Do­ing there

River­life of­fers pad­dle board­ing, kayak­ing, rollerblad­ing, rock climb­ing and ab­seil­ing. Ph (07) 3891 5766 or see river­life.com.au The ex­hi­bi­tion runs at GOMA un­til March 4. See qag.qld.gov.au/matisse

Stay­ing there

The re­cently re­fur­bished Novo­tel Bris­bane has stan­dard rooms from $179, in­clud­ing break­fast, dur­ing sum­mer. Premier rooms are an ex­tra $60 and premier bal­cony rooms an ex­tra $80. Ph (07) 3309 3309 or see novotel­bris­bane.com.au More: queens­land­hol­i­days.com.au For­ti­tude Val­ley, the lanes are also trans­form­ing. It be­gan with Winn Lane, which has a few bou­tiques, live mu­sic ev­ery Satur­day and month­ly­mar­kets with about 10 stalls. At the end of the lane is lo­cal favourite, Flamingo Cafe. With a mu­ral of a pink palm tree and a flamingo face out­side, the eatery is dec­o­rated with retro fur­ni­ture, astro­turf and fruit such as water­mel­ons, pump­kins and pineap­ples.

Its home­made sausage roll with pump­kin jam is a must.

There are also plans to de­velop nearby Bak­ery Lane and Cal­i­for­nia Lane, with talk of ship­ping con­tain­ers and artists’ work­shops.

The area is pop­u­lar with Bodhi Hunter, prin­ci­pal ‘‘ life­style cu­ra­tor’’ of the pocket book es­sen­tial The Good Guide, which claims to re­veal Bris­bane’s se­crets.

‘‘ Bris­bane is re­ally spread out, it’s not just all in the one space like Syd­ney or Mel­bourne,’’ Hunter says. ‘‘ There are so many cool hid­den pock­ets in Bris­bane.’’

New Ja­panese restau­rant Hara­juku Gy­oza serves an ar­ray of de­li­cious dumplings. It has proven so pop­u­lar you will of­ten see cus­tomers lined up to get in. Hav­ing been warned in ad­vance, we ar­rive be­fore noon for lunch. Un­der­belly ac­tor Gy­ton Grant­ley and a friend turn up a few min­utes later and nab a spot at the bar.

The en­er­getic staff shout wel­come in Ja­panese ev­ery time some­one en­ters and the wait­resses wear Min­nie Mouse-es­que bows in their hair.

Around the cor­ner in Ann St is Cloud­land lounge bar. Opened two years ago, the large, eclec­tic bar spans four lev­els and has a re­tractable glass roof. It suc­cess­fully mixes its gar­den theme with neon and has cosy booths, a Ja­panese cor­ner, glass ball bar and China white mar­ble bar.

Lo­cals will tell you Bris­bane is more re­laxed than Syd­ney or Mel­bourne, it has less traf­fic and the weather is – usu­ally – bet­ter. They make the most of it with a man-made beach at South Bank, which is great for fam­i­lies, and an out­door cinema.

When it comes to aes­thet­ics it hardly com­pares to spec­tac­u­lar Syd­ney Har­bour, but there are plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer on and around the river.

River­life was one of the busi­nesses dam­aged in the floods that has emerged rein­vig­o­rated. Housed in an old naval stor­age shed that dou­bles as a func­tion cen­tre at Kan­ga­roo Point, River­life ad­ven­ture cen­tre of­fers kayak­ing, rollerblad­ing, rock climb­ing and ab­seil­ing. I try out its new­est ex­pe­ri­ence, stand-up pad­dle­board­ing.

My guide Blair tells me the muddy Bris­bane River used to be clear and green un­til it was dredged in the 1950s to al­low big­ger ships in. He has seen it be­come clearer and greener in that time and be­lieves the floods helped wash out a lot of sed­i­ment.

It’s my first at­tempt at pad­dle board­ing, and to be hon­est it isn’t that hard – un­til a Ci­ty­cat ferry passes and you are left strug­gling to bal­ance in the waves formed by its wake.

We spend a pleas­ant half an hour pad­dling to an in­let and a few min­utes float­ing back with the strong cur­rent. Along the way Blair points out sculp­tured pel­i­cans on top of a py­lon made of mo­tor­boat parts, which were found and res­ur­rected af­ter be­ing washed away in the floods.

Bris­bane’s big­gest coup presently is the Matisse: Draw­ing Life ex­hi­bi­tion at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). The ex­hi­bi­tion, exclusive to Bris­bane, com­bines more than 20 national and in­ter­na­tional col­lec­tions and is the most com­pre­hen­sive ex­hi­bi­tion of Henri Matisse’s prints ever mounted.

Matisse drew ev­ery day and the ex­hi­bi­tion takes you through the stages of his life, from his days as a stu­dent in Paris when he learnt his craft copy­ing the form of stat­ues in mu­se­ums.

From black-and-white char­coal draw­ings and lino-cuts to pretty pas­tel wa­ter­colours and bold, colour­ful painted pa­per cut-outs, de­scribed as ‘‘ draw­ing with scis­sors,’’ the scale of the col­lec­tion is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

As por­traits of fam­ily mem­bers and friends at­test, Matisse had the re­mark­able skill to draw a recog­nis­able face with just a few lines.

Best of all, at the end you can grab a piece of pa­per and a pen­cil and sit down and have a go at draw­ing your­self.

Feel­ing in­spired, I at­tempt to draw a naked fe­male statue on dis­play.

Her head ends up look­ing like a man’s and her fin­gers look like paws, but it is a re­lax­ing way to end the day. The writer was a guest of Tourism Queens­land and Ac­cor Ho­tels.

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