Big Question Marks

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Surfers Paradise Hit List #4: Our 2 Favourite Pastimes

From now on, if anyone ever asks us what our interests are, our answer is going to be "Surfing.... and brunch."

Surfing time
So on our last weekend in Surfers, like many weekends before, we did just that. Actually, we hadn't done much surfing in the past few months, thanks to winter rolling around and it getting a whole lot colder, and thanks to not owning surfboards or wetsuits. Luckily, we'd just learned of some cheap early-Saturday-morning surf lessons ($15!) for locals that were happening at the surf school just down the block from us.

We almost chickened out when we saw the weather forecast for the day -- 41 km/hour winds! Eek! -- and saw the giant waves crashing on the beach. But then again, what better time to learn? So we showed up at Cheyne Horan Surf School at 7:45am that Saturday morning and just tried our best not to look at the waves on the way there.

When we arrived, it appeared it would be just us and four giggly high school girls, who were all competing for the attention of Mark, our surf instructor. He seemed slightly relieved not to be alone with them, and gave us a few really good pointers once we got down to the beach. This time, we were practicing on spongey foam boards, so there was less of a chance of getting smashed up by our surfboards (yay!) despite the wind and the waves. And the big water was actually a good thing -- with more waves to catch, there wasn't much waiting, and plenty of room to practice. And though our lesson was only a little more than an hour long, we were totally exhausted by the end! And starving... surfing kinda works up an appetite.

So then it was onto the next order of business: having our very favourite breakfast in town once again -- the very awesome $10 all-you-can-eat feast at the Surfers Paradise RSL (the local veteran's club, which once inside looks less like a Canadian legion hall and more like a combination of casino, pub, and Holiday Inn restaurant, complete with patrons in Hawaiian shirts, informal dining and gaudy carpet). But ever since hearing about it, we've been hooked. And we're surprised the place isn't packed every day, because it's delicious! Your ten bucks gets you not only a cooked breakfast of eggs & meat, or various omelettes, or a beautiful French toast topped with sauteed mushrooms, herbs, and sundried tomatoes.... plus unlimited brewed coffee (Adrian's favourite), orange juice, croissants, pastries and fruit (and toast and cereal, if you're still hungry)

The only problem we can see is that it's all over by 10:30am... but we do usually manage to get a good half hour of eating in before it shuts down. It's got to be the best-kept secret in Surfers! We're thinking maybe they're keeping it hush-hush from all the students, or else there would be no room for the elderley folk and tradies (aka construction workers) who are always in there. But if you ever find yourself in Surfers, it's the best deal in town! Wow, we're getting super hungry just remembering our last meal there.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Surfers Paradise Hit List #3: Our Favourite Watering Hole

The Q1 (left) and The Peninsula (2nd from right)
If there's one thing Surfers Paradise is known for, it's the nightlife. Pub crawl tours, nightclubs, pubs, gentleman's establishments... Surfers is choc full of them. Now, most of what we've encountered isn't really our style (maybe it would have been when we were 19?), so naturally, we were surprised to find our favourite nightlife spot right under our noses. It's not much of a walk from home, but it's a bit of an elevator journey -- 77 storeys up atop the world's third tallest residential building.

Embarassingly enough, we actually lived across the street from the Q1 (at the fairly tall Peninsula building) for about four months before finally getting fancied up and venturing to the Skypoint lounge at the top for a cocktail (thanks to couple of free passes in order to avoid the hefty cover charge). And boy, were we ever glad we didn't miss out on this one!
Espresso martini and mojito, yum

The Q1 has one of those super-fast elevators, with a somewhat creepy video ceiling that shows you exactly what barrelling up the elevator shaft looks like, as your ears pop and you wait for the recorded voice to tell you you've reached floor 77. And then you step out and it's all windows... floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the glittery lights up and down the Gold Coast. Ahhhh.

We've been to Skypoint twice now, and both times we couldn't help but doing the 360-degree wander around the building to admire the coast at night. Even our building, the Peninsula, at 50-odd floors, looked really small.

And then there's the drink list! It's not the most expansive menu, but there's more than a few yummy drinks on it: the bar's signature cocktail, the Mile-High martini was my favourite, with Alize Gold, passionfruit juice and mandarin vodka. Besides that, there's all the standard cocktails and plenty more delicious martinis (espresso!) and a very awesome mojito.

It seems not too many people know about Skypoint yet (or perhaps it's the cover charge keeping the riff-raff out), but there was always lots of lounge seating to swill our cocktails and enjoy the skyline from. There's something so fun about pretending to be fat cats and sipping martinis way up high in the sky. And then walking home... across the road.

The Mile High and a classic martini

The Peninsula & the Q1, best of friends.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Surfers Paradise Hit List #2: Our Favourite Form of Exercise

It's hard to call a 45-minute walk on one of the most gorgeous beaches ever exercise, but doesn't that just make it even more rewarding?

Giant jellyfish!
From the day we first set foot in Surfers, we've been trying to make sure we never take the beach for granted. At any time of day, there's many more people like us doing the exact same thing; in fact, one of the local papers even publishes the exact best times to walk on the beach (according to when the tides expose that lovely flat, packed, walkable sand) with the daily weather report. So one of the things we have been doing the most since deciding to move to Brisbane is taking long strolls along the beach.

Living by the beach and seeing it every day, you realize how the landscape is constantly changing: after a windy couple of days, the dunes are bigger, smaller, or even in other places. After a bout of big waves, sometimes the sand has been carved into small cliffs, even along the water. And the sandbars in the water build themselves up, flatten themselves down, and move along as well. It's always cool to see what the waves have washed up, too: some days it's seashells, some days purplish jellyfish, and one day we came across a jellyfish the size of a truck tire. It was pretty crazy.

Bird lesson in Kurrawa Park
One sunny morning, we thought we'd walk down to Broadbeach, the next suburb south, and grab a coffee for the walk back. It's about a 45-minute stroll and was lovely. On our way into the cafe strip, I was taking photos of some of the flowers around the seaside park in Broadbeach when we met Brian, a retired guy with a soft spot for birds. He was an interesting fellow, and on his daily walk to the library, he always carries a bag of mince (ground meat) in his pocket -- and his friends the Butcherbirds know it. We learned a lot about the Butcherbird from Brian as they landed on his shoulders and arms, and swooped in as soon as they spotted a little meat in his fingers. Adrian even fed a few of them too. They're pretty cute but great hunters-- in fact, they eat insects, lizards, and even other birds. He also told us about all the other species of birds --and snakes! -- that live along the coastline, even amongst the urban sprawl.  It was a bit of a lesson in appreciating the smaller, simpler things in our environment, and it's good to know there are people out there that don't let all the amazing things in our neighbourhoods go unnoticed.
Brian tells us all about the amazingly intelligent Butcherbirds

Inquisitive little devil!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Surfers Paradise Hit List #1: Our Favourite Cafe

We've been itching to tell everyone all about our very favourite coffee joint in Surfers ever since we first visited it in May -- it's a real gem of a place and totally unlike anything else in Surfers Paradise. Hidden away on the second floor of an open-air arcade (a type of mall), by a language school, a Japanese restaurant (Yamasakura, which by the way, is also awesome!), a few real estate agencies, and an internet cafe, is a great little spot called Black Coffee Lyrics.

It's fairly new and just off the main strip, and we might not have ever just stumbled across it on our own, had someone in a local shop not told us about it. It's just the sort of cafe we would dream of creating ourselves: with exposed brick walls and full of antique couches, vintage wallpaper, rustic wooden shelves, mismatched old chairs, and old books and board games galore! Not to mention, they play all of our favourite bands on the stereo and make a killer chai latte. It's all about the details: even the outside is done up with wooden shuttered windows, and each hot drink comes with one of those adorable tourist-souvenir spoons from a far-off place to stir your sugar in with. So from our very first latte date on the couches next to an antique birdcage (with some sort of mangy fake bird inside), we were in love.

Sure, Black Coffee Lyrics is more than a tad hipster, and it's definitely the kind of place you'd find on Ossington in Toronto, or tucked away in a tiny laneway in Melbourne. It is even run by a team of 20-something hipster dudes in skinny jeans, who must know we're real suckers for old furniture and good coffee and tunes. We can't help but love the place -- and just want to bring everyone we know there too!

We've been happy to see it get busier and busier as the weeks go by -- in fact, on one cold night we stopped in for a coffee, it so was packed full of hipsters in giant glasses and scarves swilling whisky we couldn't get a seat. We're just happy that such a cool place is enjoying so much popularity in a town where overpriced, ordinary seafood restaurants and cafe chains are the norm. Love!

Even the outside is cute.
Fancy some Scrabble?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Official.

Brizvegas, here we come!
Yes, it's now official: we are moving away from the beaches of Gold Coast for the greener pastures (?!) of Brisbane.

It was a hard choice, and a busy couple of weeks apartment hunting, but all signs are pointing to a move to the city (which, by the way, is less than 1 hour by car and 2 hours by public transit to Gold Coast). Adrian's soon to be starting an internship with superstar software company Red Hat, in Brisbane, and has got a few of his classes at the South Bank campus in the city, Dayle will soon be finishing up her job in Surfers, and we've got some cool new flatmates -- our old pals Megan & Justin from Melbourne -- who have made it back to Brisbane just in time for us to get a place together! Not to mention, we've been craving a little bit of that city buzz -- the cafes, the non-overpriced, non-tourist restaurants, the museums and art galleries, the markets, and all that good cultural stuff we've been feeling a lack of since moving into Surfers.

So while we'll miss being next to the beach, we'll definitely make it back there from time to time. We're looking forward to hanging out in the city's many parks, and strolling along the river, too. We're also making an effort to do all of our favourite Gold Coast things before our move... which we'll be sure to tell you all about. And if you ever feel like sending us a postcard (or Tim Horton's coffee!) just email us at thebigquestionmark[at] and we'll be sure to send you our new address, pronto! Talk to you soon, xx D&A

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Canada Day in Surfers Paradise

The national uniform?
Plaid, plaid, and more plaid. That's what we saw when we went to the Griffith University Canadian Students Association's (yes, there are a lot of Canadian students here) Canada Day celebration at Melba's in Surfers. There were quite a few hockey jerseys, and lots of those ear-flap hats, too. We spent the night trying to figure out if the crowd was a lot of Canadians simply stereotyping Canadians, or if it's just true that we all do wear a ton of plaid?

As the party had started at 3pm (yikes!) and we arrived around 9pm, the advertised Alexander Keith's, caesars, and poutine were long gone. We did have an amusing conversation with a Vancouverite who explained how, in desperation for a caesar (as there's no Clamato juice to be found in Oz), she and her flatmates have done everything from import Clamato at a staggering fee from the American Food Store in Melbourne, to buying lots of canned clams and draining the juice out of them. We can at least say Canucks are very determined, if nothing else.

Plaid, and more plaid.
We must have forgotten out own ear-flap hats back in Ontario.

We ran into Felix, from Germany, in camouflage as a Canuck.

Heaps of red.

We left before it all got too messy.