A Parisien in Brisbane – how a French visitor made us tourists in our own city

Never mind Paris in the Springtime, Brisbane in the Autumn knocked our French visitor off her feet, writes Phil Brown

Apr 15, 2024, updated Apr 15, 2024
Participants perform yoga in front of the Eiffel Tower as part of the sport event "La Parisienne", in Paris, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Participants perform yoga in front of the Eiffel Tower as part of the sport event "La Parisienne", in Paris, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

We have a friend staying with us from overseas and we have been showing off Brisbane to her. The problem is that she lives in Paris. How can we compare, right?

But actually she’s impressed. She thinks the Queen’s Wharf Brisbane development is amazing, she loved riding the CityCat and we took her out for a drink and hung out with the beautiful people in the bar at The Calile Hotel in James Street, Fortitude Valley.

We also went to the Queensland Art Gallery to see the amazing Judy Watson exhibition that’s on there right now and had coffee at the Water Mall café overlooking the Sculpture Garden.

We’re just getting started really. It’s fun showing off your home town and being a tourist in your own city. But I can’t help reflecting on the fact that I am now a Brizzo. That’s what we used to call people from Brisbane when I was a long-haired teenage surf rat on the Gold Coast.

Brizzos were reviled and when anyone from Brisbane turned up at our surf break, we shooed them away in a most unfriendly manner. “Locals only” was our motto.

And we rarely went to Brisbane though it was just an hour away. The very idea was anathema to us. Later in my teens we would lower ourselves to visit the hated capital but only so we could see Lou Reed, Frank Zappa, The Eagles and other acts at Festival Hall.

After the concert we drove home immediately except that one time when we couldn’t find the car. After an hour of hunting, we finally recalled where it was and we got on that highway and hightailed it back to the Gold Coast.

After arriving on the Gold Coast in late 1969 I recall we did have a family visit to Brisbane to have lunch with my father’s stockbroker. He took us to the Burleigh Marr Oyster Bar and we feasted on oysters, the only time I have ever eaten them. I ate a dozen and decided that I could eat another dozen.

I was 13 at the time and not at all sensible. Why my parents didn’t stop me is beyond me but all I can say is that the oysters all reappeared about an hour later.

We drove back to the Gold Coast with me groaning in the back seat.

So that was my introduction to Brisbane. The only other times we came, very occasionally, were to visit my mum’s Aunty Lo who lived in an historic home (Lokarlton) on Gregory Terrace. Before we arrived, Aunty Lo would have popped down to the Shingle Inn to get some cakes for us, which was nice.

But generally, us surfies shunned the place although we sometimes had to drive through it on surfing trips to Noosa.

I finally succumbed though and moved here in 1986 and have been here ever since. I had six months in Sydney along the way and my wife and I lived in Melbourne for three years but we came back again like homing pigeons and now I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Go figure.



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