The Land of Oz: Brisbane, Australia

September, 2016

After the Emirates saga of our plane being grounded in Dubai, finally arrived a day late in Brisbane, Australia – The Land of Oz, in a daze and very shattered. 

A delayed long-haul flight is almost like moving around in a surreal state of consciousness. I guess 48-hours door-to-door takes its toll on any body, regardless of age.

Rome, Italy, Brisbane, AustraliaBrisbane at last

As expected, the 13+ hours from Dubai to Brisbane passes slowly – this flight leg should only take 7 hours plus 1.5 hours wait time.

Long haul flights are great for catching up on movies, music, and Sudoku. The guy next to me wanted to chat…a lot. Constantly chewing my ear off, even when I have my headphones in – I’m trying to do my own thing, in my own space.

Do you ever want to be alone and by yourself on a flight sometimes?

After the last two times flying back to Australia, it feels as if I am not meant to return. Flying back last year, I experienced a saga with Cathay Pacific also and vowed never to fly with this airline again.

The hired machine

With loads of running around to do in Brisbane including organising tradesmen for a badly needed roof repair at the house, I booked a car hire with Thrifty from Brisbane Airport. Public transport in Brisbane does not always keep to schedules.

What a car hire it turns out to be…

The brightest Fuchsia pink car you have ever seen. What an embarrassment to drive! But there is always a positive to every situation. The up side? I can always find this car in a any busy carpark, regardless.

Brisbane, car
The machine – brighter than this photo in the flesh!

Although I ordered a Manual, I receive an automatic, which I don’t like to drive. Still, we drive away from the airport and I don’t want to see another plane again…for a while.

House sitting

Extremely lucky as I have house-sitting gigs with my very good friend in Brisbane.

With two consecutive house-sitting opportunities, we also have a third one lined up, but decide not to move a third time. This worked out a perfect catch-up and no outlay for accommodation or calling on friends for a room.

I enjoy house-sitting and have done several over the years. It’s a really nice break from whatever you happen to be doing and as there is usually one or more pets to care for, it is a great time for puppy hugs. Something I really miss when I lived on a boat for 21 years but also whilst travelling. A tad selfish to have pets under these conditions – my view only.


The Passport Dilemma

Arriving in Brisbane on the Tuesday instead of Monday as scheduled, I am a day late, and now have to visit the passport office in Brisbane on Wednesday. With my online application completed in Italy a few weeks earlier and a reference number, I find the office.

I must have 15 months left on my passport for the 365-day Italian Residency visa, but I only have 13 months – no exceptions.

As my visa interview with the Italian Consulate is next Monday, I now need an express passport, which is more expensive at AUD$381.

It’s a stressful touch and go scenario, as I visited the Australian Passport office in Brisbane with my renewal application, number, and still valid passport.

Nowhere on the site does it say that if you meet the three requirements that I also require an appointment to apply – it’s not an over the counter application after all.

On entering this office in George Street, everyone needs to take a ticket…this is where it goes pear-shaped.

The first question: “Do you have an interview appointment?” No, means you have to pick up the little red hand receiver and speak with the most unhelpful guy, who advised I cannot get an appointment until Friday 12 noon. This means that I ‘should’ receive my passport by Wednesday/Thursday next week – “if I am lucky”. It is Wednesday today – an express passport is supposed to take 2 days…this is express?

My consulate appointment is booked for 13:45hrs on Monday…things are going disastrously! I make the passport appointment anyway.

Pleading with the lady at the enquiry counter and hoping she would take pity on me, I explain that I have flown from Europe to submit this application for my interview. Very helpful, the officer suggests that I submit the application at the General Post Office in the city. The submission would leave today, arrive to this office by tomorrow, then hope like hell my passport would be ready by Monday noon. How absurd. I am standing in the passport office but it is quicker to submit at the PO.

It is supposed to be returned by Tuesday. Nowhere does it say 2 business day from the lodgement day. So Friday became Tuesday and longer. Stressed, I cancel the Monday’s consulate appointment and reschedule to Wednesday.


To the Post Office to submit my passport renewal application

Lodging my application with the General Post Office (still Wednesday), the very kind lady advises that I should write a letter with my submission to the Passport Office, pleading my case in the hope the office would rush my request through. I do this…

On submitting my application, the lady butchers my still-in-date passport – cutting half of the back cover containing numeric codes and cutting a corner off the front of the passport.

Leaving the Post office and returning back to the house-sit, I have a major panic attack whilst I realise I no longer have a valid passport.

The first time in 30-plus years that I don’t have a passport!

Panicked, I phone the Post Office, which advises a submission to the Passport Office cannot be made without first cutting the existing passport. But my passport still has 13 months and not expired. What if I have to fly somewhere in an emergency? Couldn’t the Post Office butcher my existing passport on handing over my new passport that I had to collect anyway?

“No, this is the process.”

Follow-up calls to the Passport Office

Phoning the passport office on Thursday to see how things are panning out, the office does not have anything logged yet in the system. Things are not looking good…at this rate, I will not receive my passport by Tuesday.

I phone the passport office again on Friday and speak to a very helpful lady that advises my passport is being printed today and it will be ready for pickup by 3 pm this afternoon. Then ten minutes later, I receive a call from a different passport office lady advising it would be ready for pick-up at noon today instead.

Wow! I am now sufficiently impressed and the passport office has redeemed itself.

I race to the city to pick up my passport. It is Friday afternoon and I have my fresh new passport in my hot little hand!

As now I wanted my Monday consulate appointment back, I frantically phoned the consulate only to be told that I would have to cancel Wednesday’s appointment and rebook Monday on the online system. However, there is no guarantee that anything is available – no one can look at the system as it is all automated.

The officer advises me not to stress as the maximum time for the visa is 15 days. I should receive it in time for my flight out on the 11th October.

As I’m flying to Newcastle (NSW) the officer needs to post my passport. I have no faith in Australia Post having had much re-directed mail lost. So, I leave a self-addressed Express (tracked) envelope for the consulate.


The Italian Consulate experience

I wait patiently at the Italian Consulate whilst listening to a various people applying for differing Italian visas.

Brisbane, Australia, King George Square
Breaking up the monotony of offices – going to markets in front of City Hall – King George Square, Brisbane

One lady is going to study jewellery making for a year in Italy. Another chap is staying in Italy for 5 days just to meet up with his mother. Why bother with a visa for 5 days?  Most nationalities receive a Schengen 90-day visa free on arrival.

My turn finally comes and though I do have a scheduled appointment, in true Italian fashion, the officer is late.

Documents

I hand over the wad of paperwork together with my new passport, and a passport-size mug shot of my very tired and haggard-looking face. This photo was taken the day after I arrived in Oz, following the 48+ hour flight saga.

It’s touch and go again with the very friendly officer who has an issue with my Health Insurance. A requirement is that you must hold 12 months Health Insurance and mine runs out, March 2017. Finally, we get past this hurdle as I’m adamant that the insurance will be renewed – who goes to Italy for a year without health insurance?

The second hurdle is my income. You have to demonstrate a certain Australian dollar equivalent to Euro amount, coming into your account each month. This is for the duration of the 12 months in Italy.

Although my running income is a little short per month, my savings more than covers the shortfall. Something which the officer has trouble understanding. Consulting another colleague, this hurdle is also squashed.

A hick-up

Lastly, the stickler. A completed form from my host in Italy, which I have, although, a few check boxes and my details are not completed correctly.

Mentioning that I can check the boxes now as my host has already signed the form, the officer won’t accept the form as “it is a Declaration”. I expected this bureaucracy in Italy, but not here in Brisbane.

The officer advises, I have to email the form to my host for the correct completion, then email it back to the consulate. The officer assured me on leaving: “she would make it happen for me”!

This is the same officer that I have been emailing with numerous questions whilst in Italy. Let’s hope so. Disheartened, I head straight to the Library’s Internet to email my Italian host again and wait. Needing a drink after the last week’s (or 10 months) hassle, luckily, I’m meeting up with friends in the city for a wine.

I email the completed form to the consulate today, Thursday. Surprise, surprise the consulate is not open today. So, again, have to wait until tomorrow and keep my fingers crossed.

Ever get the feeling that the universe is against you? Planets are not aligned? All those really bad clichés?

I’m feeling very much like this at the moment!

Brisbane Arcade, Australia, shops
A walk to the old Brisbane Arcade to release the stress…

“Time and tide wait for no man…”

Time is ticking on, I’m still in Brisbane, and need to book the 1.5-hour flight to Newcastle. Still no word from the consulate to confirm receipt of my form.

I phone the consulate. I don’t expect such a curt response and must of caught the officer on a bad morning:

“I’ve received your form and have gone way above and beyond the service that is provided by the consulate. Your visa is being processed and will take up to 2 weeks. If the consulate requires any further documentation, it will be requested from you. You should appreciate that you’re not the only person applying for a visa!”

Politely apologising, I thank her very much for all the help provided to date. It’s such a power trip for some people in these offices. This officer is hard to read: a smiling assassin?

I can only hope that I’ve provided all the required documentation as the consulate is very non-committal, and hope that my visa arrives in Newcastle in 2 weeks – otherwise, I have no passport and can’t leave Australia – but need to book my flight to Newcastle as I can’t stay in Brisbane forever.

Brisbane Arcade, Australia, flowers
Spring flowers perhaps – too late or early for Easter

Brisbane street art

Always time to stop and take photos of great street art.

Red Hill, Brisbane, Australia, street art
Street art in Red Hill: Panel 1 – too long for my little compact camera
Red Hill, Brisbane, Australia, street art
Street art – Panel 2
Red Hill, Brisbane, Australia, street art
Street art – Panel 3
Red Hill, Brisbane, Australia, street art
Street art – Panel 4

Food

Brisbane seems to have got quite expensive since I was last here in July 2015. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to Southern Italy’s cheap prices or whether it’s just more expensive.

Communal Bar

on George St in the Brisbane CBD, a glass of white, which is not a full glass by any means sets you back $8.50.

Tamarind Tree

Try shop 1, 286 Hawthorne Road, Hawthorne for delicious and authentic Thai food served at good prices (Entrée $3.9+, Mains $12.90+, Desserts $4+), especially for up-market Hawthorne.

This is a small cosy BYO restaurant with friendly staff. A good little find.

Gateau Café + Dessert

Wander to 7 Lindsay St, Hawthorne for scrumptious deserts and cakes ($6+).

This chic café has only been open a few months. A waffle was served cold so the owner delivered a tray of Melting Moments to our table Gratis, to make up for the cold waffle – excellent service! The ever-illusive real leaf tea is also served here – I’m impressed.

Sushi

I marvel how regardless of what country I travel in, Brisbane city still has the best and cheapest Sushi in the world I’ve found to date (I haven’t been to Japan yet).

Take-away Sushi shops are on almost every block in the city and the Sushi on sale is fresh, delicious, and cheap. Depending on where you shop, a Sushi roll costs from AUD$2.50-$3.50 for all sorts of ingredients and types. I crave for Brisbane’s Sushi when I’m overseas.

Leaving Brisbane

Off to Newcastle I go to await the arrival of my passport, but also to go to a wedding!

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

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38 thoughts on “The Land of Oz: Brisbane, Australia

Add yours

    1. Yes it is and with a growing population of 2.2 million, there is always something to do in this city.

      I’ve been living in QLD since the early ’90s and usually work in Brisbane so know it pretty well. I can thoroughly recommend a trip there but head further north, depending on what you like to explore.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting!

      Shame that the photo with my compaq camera doesn’t show the true brightness of this little beast. Unless you absolutely adore pink, which I don’t, anyone would be embarrassed driving this machine – I even got a toot and a thumbs up from a passing car.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. At least they sure could see you coming from far away. In situations like that it is great to just smile and enjoy the ride. Make em all envious, lol. On the bright side, pun intended, you got some toots and a thumbs up.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Ha, ha and that’s exactly what I did – it got me around and was great on fuel, so no other complaints.

      BTW I love your site and the WordPress theme you’re using is great. My theme is looking a little old now by haven’t got time to update the theme just yet. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    4. When traveling in a forign area all we need is something to get us around. Learned the hard way about the need for insurance though when the little obtuse colored buggy rented in Ireland didn’t quite make it around one of the sharp turns, ouch to the tune of a couple grand. Thanks for noticing the theme (Theme Foundry) we are using. It was simple, visually appealing and allowed a wide range of openings to share. There are so many out there now but getting the time to make the changes can be hard. You’ll get there one day.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Very true and it’s usually public transport for me. 😉

      Sounds like a very expensive exercise but it’s always touch and go whether you’ll pay the extra premium to excess. I think hire companies have it pretty well sussed out to their benefit (of course).

      I like how your theme steers more towards Infographics for the menu, etc. Mine blog site been up for 2 years and I’ve done a ton of CSS customisation, so not in a hurry to re-do this again. Yes, it takes hours just looking through all the available themes.
      At the moment, I’m building a new site to replace my Nilla’s Photography site as this is 6 years’ old now and looking tired.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. We did not realize the efforts involved in setting up and maintaining a blog site. We are growing all the time in knowledge of the do’s and don’ts with lots of laughs in between. It is all worth it though because of the wonderful people we have been blessed to meet and get to know like you. Its exciting to see the creativity and talents people have.

      Liked by 1 person

    7. A blog is a lot of work but I think the social media part is even more work as this part is constant.
      Have to agree with you that it’s great meeting other writers online and hope that one day, meeting writers in person will happen. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    8. Won’t it be great to stumble upon other bloggers when least expecting it! We’re going to get a sticker for our travel van that notes we’re a WP blogger. There is a lot of us out in the world. Stats suggest WP has a quarter of the market.

      Liked by 1 person

    9. Absolutely!
      Sounds great. What type of travel van do you have? Reg is a 1997 Fiat Ducato motorhome currently in storage in the UK.
      Sadly, we’ve come to the decision to sell and flying back end of May. It’s too expensive and convoluted to transfer registration from UK to Italy. The other problem is that there isn’t any car park for a small car here let alone a motorhome and nowhere nearby.

      Liked by 1 person

    10. After our Sept. 2016 – 30 day road trip out west we began seeing travel vans everywhere we went. So, when we returned we started looking and found a 2012 Roadtrek 190 Versatile. It is incredible… queen bed, stove, fridge, generator, plenty of storage, great gas mileage, etc., etc. We love back woods/back trails travel and we feel safe in it. We can’t say enough good about it. Tenting was great but the weather can make year round trips hard. This is great you are from the UK/Italy. That has to be so awesome to have so many beautiful places around you!!!! We can’t wait to hear more of your travels.

      Liked by 1 person

    11. Sounds fantastic and there’s nothing wrong with a little comfort. 😉
      No, I’m from Australia and currently in Italy, just have Reg in the UK as we bought him in Wales…long story.
      I look forward to more of your great stories also!

      Liked by 1 person

    12. Many thanks for your comments.

      I can only hope that I’ve garnered some wisdom along the way. 😉 But you know, everyone can make these choices – we make our own path in life, I believe.

      Only spent about 5 months in the UK in 2015 so not living there just passing through and buying Reg to drive through to Europe for 3 months. Australians only get 6 months on arrival in the UK. For Europe it’s even less: a total of 90 days in a 180-day period in Schengen countries, which totals 26 European countries. I think Americans and Canadians get the same time?
      Three months is not a long time for the whole of Europe. I’ve written a few posts on travelling in Reg through France, Spain, Italy, and the UK if you’re interested in reading these. You never know, you may want to drive around Europe one day.

      Liked by 1 person

    13. We are sure you have much wisdom from your experiences in traveling and meeting so many people in so many places. Yes we will be very interested in reading of your travels. One never knows but perhaps we may one day travel your same roads, lol.

      Like

    1. It is expensive but I have found cheaper wine to drink. It’s marketed as fruit wine but I found out it only has about a shot of fruit juice to keep the import tax down, hence cheaper for me! It’s nice stuff too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. No, far from it. I know lots of words but sentences are still a struggle. I went to lessons before but haven’t been for over a year. Plus I hang out with English speaking folks, so I don’t need to speak it all the time, but it does come in handy for shopping and stuff like that. I should really make an effort again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Absolutely, there are 5 tones and depending on the tone, the word can have a wildly different meaning.
      When I volunteered at FED last year, the very impressive Development Director (American) speaks fluent Thai, can read Thai, and I think he can also write in Thai but not about the writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Nilla, Housesitting is enjoyable [though so different doing it fulltime!] as much as eating sushi. Oh, I do miss sushi, [well maybe not as much as I enjoy French cheese!] 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How is housesitting different full time? I’ve only ever housesat for a few weeks at a time.

      Ha, ha I also miss Sushi and can definitely eat that full time. I love French cheese but Italian cheese is pretty good also and love to eat both sorts. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s a hard question to answer. It’s more time consuming, as in organising housesits and travel. Treat it more professionally than you would just housesitting for friends or family. The English do a unbeatable cheddar as do NZ and Aussie 🙂 Yes, trying different foods is a highlight of our travel!

      Like

    3. Just thinking it must be exciting changing countries and setting up a whole new life over in Italy. Look forward to reading more about it 🙂 Leaving France on Thursday!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    4. It is very exciting and we’re meeting a lot of lovely people here, which is always a bonus.

      I’ve finally caught up with my blogs and it’s the first time in 2 years (we left Oz in March 2014). I’ve schedulled one each Sunday night until 30th April and most are on Italy now. Some are very long so I hope to get some honest feedback. 😉

      Where are you off too next?

      Liked by 1 person

    5. We are off for a break in Amsterdam for a few days then housesitting in Switzerland. Oh well, you shall find out whether people prefer long or short 🙂 Not sure why people who write something that wasn’t honest. If I don’t like something I don’t like, end of story. I do prefer to do short posts to long ones.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Wow, sounds great! Amsterdam is wonderful. A house sit in Switzerland sounds magical. I haven’t seen Switzerland since I briefly travelled through in 1985!

      Very true and if I have a good experience, then I’ll write about that although if I’ve had a bad experience, I’ll also write about that. I used to write short posts but somehow I seem to have to much to write about and hope it helps people along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I wouldn’t imagine such difficulties in a country like Australia, rather this sounds like a story I’d face in Thailand…What’s your preference Reg or that Fuchsia box on wheels?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I didn’t expect this either but perhaps Australia is becoming more like Thailand and Italy in its bureaucracy.

      Mark, how can you ask such a question…my heart always lies with Reg and never with Fuchsia! 😉

      Like

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