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Thanks to TRT Photographics (my granddaughter) for the photographic concepts and for the photos, taken on iPhone


Last year I failed in my attempt to take my Most Beloved Senior Grandchildren, (A – 11 and T – 15) to see The lion king. This year I made sure of tickets for Dirty dancing. This is how our 24 hours in Brisbane unfolded, organised in phases in my planning notebook, much to their amusement. A frequent question: “Which phase are we in now, Nanny Meg?”, asked mockingly, with a teenage smirk.


Phase 1: Catching the train

You might not think this deserves a separate phase. After all, my son dropped us off at the station and then we just had to catch a train. Not that simple. No-one staffing the ticket office. A ticket machine that gave us one ticket in response to coins, and then rejected both a $50 note and plastic. A shopkeeper, reluctant to change $50 for a bottle of water and the necessary change. A retreat to the end of the queue after each failure. Finally two more tickets and a jangle of dollar coins for change, stashed away for the return journey.


Phase 2: From Central Station to the Marriott

Let's all have a taste of the high life, while we're about it, I thought as I planned the weekend. So I booked two rooms at the Marriott. Plans to arrive by taxi and be met by a uniformed doorman (who didn't in fact exist) were subverted by the man at the station who told us that “everyone walks to the Marriott”. So walk we did, map in hand. Check-in was smooth and we had early access to one of our two rooms. With the help of A and T we managed to activate the lift to the 23rd floor, and unlock our room.



Phase 3: Lunch

A & T are sushi tragics. I sought advice from Desleyjane, a recent blogging contact who lives in Brisbane, and on her recommendation we headed off in a taxi summoned by the concierge to Ginga where I'd reserved a table for three. As we waited to order, T, who has been learning Japanese at school and is off to Japan in September, read the characters on the banner outside the restaurant, and translated them. A too is learning Japanese and recognised characters. T took the daring step of ordering non-sushi, while A and I stuck with the familiar. The whole scene met with their approval.



We finished lunch with time to spare so we walked towards the theatre through Saturday markets and buskers. T was delighted to recognise a multi-talented busker, who juggles while he plays harmonica, from the Apple and Grape festival in Stanthorpe: “I only heard one bar and I knew it was Juzzie.” We paused for a knife-fire-and-unicycle man who was more talk than performance, and an African playing an unfamiliar spherical instrument.


Phase 4: Dirty dancing

We reached the centrepiece of our Brisbane weekend: Dirty dancing at the Lyric Theatre. Again, my grandchildren were faster than me at finding the right door to Balcony 1 and our seats in the centre of Row O. There we sat in pink light and moving spots waiting for the show to begin – a whirl of dancing and singing, and the innocence of the 1960s when dirty dancing was the name for something modest by today's standards. I was surprised to find myself responding with nostalgic tears to the beat: I was not part of the music scene in my teens and twenties, and yet there was an astonishing familiarity. The stereotypical characters weren't hard to fathom and there was a nod at class and race issues. My grandchildren, familiar with the music and the movie, were far more discerning than I. My granddaughter was savage in her criticism of the lead male, who delivered key lines that everyone had been waiting for far too limply for her liking.

After some dancing and leaping in the long tunnel to the cab rank, we hopped in a taxi to take us back to the hotel.



Phase 5: Back at the hotel

We picked up the card to unlock our second room. All smooth sailing so far. And then I opened the door to my room: it was occupied by a vast amount of luggage not mine, and the connecting door was still locked. It took a while to sort this out, but finally we had our two rooms on the 23rd floor. And then I realised my dress hanging in the wardrobe had been carted off with the trolley load.

Finally in possession of both room and property, we headed down to the health and fitness space, already discovered by my reconnoitring grandchildren. As dusk fell and the city lights came on, we sat in the sauna, swam in the pool, and relaxed in the spa, alone. I regretted all the wasted hotel stays of my working life: why hadn't I headed off to enjoy everything on offer instead of dutifully reading through today and preparing for tomorrow?

My grandchildren depend on tank water at home so for them a deep bath was a luxury. Then we ordered room service – oysters kilpatrick and barramundi – and settled down to watch Insurgents.

And so to bed, me feeling mildly anxious because I told T she could go exploring by herself in the morning.


Phase 6: Packing up

T left for her stroll, barefoot and wrapped in her coat. She came back in half an hour, delighted because everyone she encountered spoke to her, something that made made my grandmaternal heart sputter. We posed amongst ruffled sheets by the window where she had pushed her bed to take full advantage of the view, while A ran on the treadmill in the gym. Once everything was in the suitcase, we went downstairs for the Endless Buffet Breakfast, an initial graze, followed by more serious eating, ordering from a charming French waiter: serial waffles, cappuccino, hot chocolate, espresso, a separate order for each, and a separate chit signed each time.



Phase 7: Hop on, hop off bus

The final phase I was doubtful about, especially since we had no time to hop off. But a double decker bus was novelty enough, and my glorious grandchildren even found interest in the commentary. I watched T relishing old buildings with her camera – and even finding time to relish an old grandmother. When we returned home she was curious to see if there was a Gold Coast hop on hop off, or one in Bali, where she'll be in a month's time for a wedding. The highlight for them was the wild wobbly windy intensity of speeding down the freeway and over a Brisbane bridge.



Phase 7: Coomera pick up

I know about ticket machines now, and my stashed small change meant the train held no drama. The final pleasure for me was listening to tales of our twenty four hours as told to the parents on the twisty road back up Tamborine Mountain.


Never before have I, and never again will I, spend $1000 in 24 hours, but it was worth every cent!