Haha! Dinotopia lives! The different environment is somewhat overwhelming and unsettling, but in a very mind-broadening and gratifying way. My sense of awe is being stretched to wonderful new depths.
While in Sydney I spent some time with Nate, who seems to be getting along nicely. He took me out for kangaroo pizza-- thanks, Nate! Check out his blog here: http://nclooney-thewizardofoz.blogspot.com
Brisbane is no less amazing. It has a different feel than Sydney-- even more laid back, if that's possible. Slightly cleaner, if that's possible either. Better public transportation. I'm staying with a group of university students and travelers in a house near Gabba cricket stadium on the south side of the river. We come from the US, France, Germany, Sweden, and Australia. Brisbane is clearly a major cultural center of Queensland and is filled with festivals year-round, music, art, performances of all kinds, writers conferences, and other attractions.
My favorite spot so far is the South Bank park/community space. Greg, you would love this. You enter the park through a huge trellis of the 21st century-- an arching, beautifully dipping and curving steel structure with cables running from ground to the sky literally dripping in vine-y plant life covered in starry purple flowers. This tunneled walkway (shared by bikers and pedestrians) snakes all throughout the park and drops you off at the neatest spots and detours. One area is a small lake with a series of islands covered in twisting fig trees with their roots magically hanging everywhere. The islands have little pavilions for grilling and picnicking, but these grills are fancy-- like at a hibachi restaurant. All of the pavilions were full of people cooking steaks and kabobs. Probably every Asian and Pacific Island nation was represented there. After the picnic area you come to a beautiful stream that opens up into a series of swimming pools that are more like lagoons and lakes and beaches. There are tons of cool fountains you can run through and other awesome water park features. All of this is free and open to the public, with lifeguards and everything. After that is a deep, dark forest with boardwalks through the trees. You finally arrive at the Qld Performing Arts complex and a bridge over the river to the vibrant downtown area. During all of this you have the picturesque river with the Kangaroo Cliffs and the Brisbane skyline in the background. Insane.
Alright, off to the pub with my international crew to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's "birthday."
Will be settling in Toowoomba, the Garden City, tomorrow!