Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cairns…idyllic, iconic and so friendly….

An iconic Queensland Hotel, Cairns (photo the author)
I have enjoyed going through my photos of Cairns. I’ve written about the food and the reef, the vast spaces and the experiences of travelling and staying with friends.

But what about  Cairns itself?  I have been visiting this city in far north Queensland since 1977.  I was going out with Bob, whom I had met in Canberra when he was the Naval Aide de Camp to the then Governor General.  And he was then appointed as captain of a RAN patrol boat based out of Cairns. It was so romantic to head north on vacation into the tropical heat from the cold, dry environment of Canberra, and the enclosed walls of Parliament House where I spent most of my time working in the Prime Minister’s office.

Port Douglas, about 1977 (author unknown)
I remember the first time Bob drove me the 60 kms north to Port Douglas.  It was about 5 years before the first large resort, The Sheraton Mirage would be built there. It was fun visiting the resort on this recent trip. 

A trip down memory lane at The Sheraton Mirage resort, Port Douglas (Photo Christine Simmonds)
The town was tiny, isolated and iconically Queensland.  Everyone walked slowly, talked slowly and drank lots of beer!.  We went  to dinner at The Nautilus restaurant, built into the hillside, surrounded by tropical vegetation…it was heavenly. I of course don’t remember what we ate…I was too in love to care!

And over the subsequent years I have visited six times, with my children and my partner, Damien. He and I dined at the Nautilus again two years ago.  It  has been expanded but it is still one of the most romantic places in Australia.  And I don’t remember what we ate that night either, for the same reason! 

I have seen  Cairns change from a large town into…a large town.  It is officially a city but it has an isolated feel about it;  the streets are wide, surprisingly so for such an isolated place. The huge trees, canopying the streets, keep the oppressive heat to a bearable level.

There is a hotel on almost every corner (photo the author)

The architecture is uniquely “Queensland” and the inhabitants so very friendly. The shopping caters for a large Chinese and Japanese tourist industry;  there is a large DFS with all the usually international brands, and a wonderful Tommy Bahama store in a beautiful old building, reflecting the brand which I first encountered in Hawaii. 
Tommy Bahama, Cairns (photo attributed)
The assistants in this store are truly wonderful and are very kind with the Aboriginal people who hover near the entrance, trying to escape the crippling heat and humidity by sitting on the steps under the airconditioning.

Old man outside the Cairns food market, playing  Torres Strait Island music  (photo the author)
There is a large indigenous population in Cairns. The only time I was ever concerned with the huge numbers of people on the pavements, making it difficult to pass by was just before the alcohol outlets opened.  Being French, Damien found it quite confronting that people could be so dependent on alcohol…and the shop’s opening hours.

This visit however was different.  I was staying with my friends and living like a local, visiting the market, seeing the cruise ships berth at the passenger terminal opposite the apartment where my friends live;  seeing the billionaires' boats come into the harbour for a look and a provision and fuel replenishment;  and stroll the Esplanade, enjoying my role as a tourist as well.

The Mayan Queen, owned by Mexican Billionaire Alberto Bailleres in Cairns harbour 
(photo the author)

And the most wonderful surprise was tasting the fabulous morning coffee at Cruze.  In a little laneway, I was introduced to the delights of a true barista.  The coffee they use is sourced around the world and the customer is invited to choose the beans, or blend of beans they would like.  My organic Ethiopian blend was an absolute taste sensation.  The long macchiato was a joy.

The crew at Cruze (photo the author)

Perhaps it was the friendliness of the people which I most enjoyed on this trip.  No one was too busy to take the time to say “G’day”, or to chat briefly in the shops. The service in the restaurants was friendly and efficient and people appeared to genuinely be interested in assisting with orchid choice in the market, clothing choice in Tommy Bahama, food choice at the Hilton, and snorkling choice on the Great Barrier Reef.

Signs warning of, not kangaroos, but cassowary birds  
For one day, my friend and I drove up into the hinterland of the Atherton Tableland…it is a world apart, and except for the obvious daily technology requirements, quite removed from the modern world.  The towns are clean, friendly and charming in their architectural styles

A small cafe at Yungaburra (photo the author)
 At my suggestion we stopped for a “pub lunch” at the historic Malanda Hotel..in Malanda.  It celebrated its 100 birthday last year.

The Malanda Hotel opening, 26 December 1911 (photographer unknown)

The reef fish and chip dish was superb;  the wine crisp;  the service delightful…and it’s the first “pub lunch” I’ve had in years…and it was in tropical Far North Queensland.

With the  "gypsies", Cairns, Queensland (photo the cruise operator)

My “gypsy friends” are moving on again.  Next stop a contract in Djakarta, Indonesia.  I can’t wait to visit them again…more adventures, food and observations of people and their manners.


2 comments:

  1. I've always dreamt of visiting Australia (I'm not really into the US/New York hype that has spread like a virus at work), and after reading your post, I'm even more inclined to make a trip 'down-under'. If only it weren't that far!! :(
    Great post, fantastic photos ... Not even the Blogger antics playing around with the fonts can spoil the beauty of it all! Martine

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  2. Thank you for your comments Martine.I am so pleased you enjoy my posts. Yes, we are far from Europe...but just as Europe is far from here! Believe it or not one can get used to the 20 hour travel to enjoy what lies at the other end. Europe for me once a year is a must!

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