Brisbane city offers so much for weekend visitors
AFTER a two-year work stint in New Zealand, I looked back in 2006 across the Pacific to decide just where my family was going to call home.
I was a Sydney lad and the wife had spent all her years in Canberra.
As such, it wasn't hard to agree it was time for a fresh adventure and a new city to discover.
So we bought a nice home on Brisbane's outskirts, but with busy new jobs, we never really got to experience Brisbane.
We made the occasional run to the city or down the highway to the theme parks and to be honest, for the most part, we weren't sure if we'd made the right decision.
When an opportunity came to move to the Clarence Valley and then Hervey Bay, we took it without much hesitation.
Invited back to town the other weekend to experience how Brisbane was coming of age, I was not expecting to be enchanted so much that by the end of just two days, I would think about returning.
Brisbane Marketing has been working hard to reveal what the city has to offer, especially for weekend visitors.
The itinerary staff set up for the small media group I was part of took us to some hidden treats that I am sure everyone would also love to explore.
A coffee fix at Di Bella's coffee factory and cafe turned out to be an intriguing hour's tour where I was turned into an instant coffee expert.
They say you always tell a good restaurant by the number of people at the tables.
Well, in Brisbane's West End, you can tell by the number lined up at the door.
The Gun Shop Cafe breakfast is the hottest dish on the morning menu and after enjoying its unique take on cooking with a plate of Barambah quark, organic avocado and sourdough, I know why.
I'll let you look up what quark is because just one of us at the table had any idea.
Suffice to say, it was not me.
From getting the chef's best efforts to becoming chefs ourselves took out our afternoon as we learnt from the masters at the Spring Cooking School.
We sliced and diced, quaffed a few wines, tasted our own food, listened to the best tips and by the time we looked at our watches, we had spent three hours at the school.
We cooked up a dinner party meal of four courses, but there are all sorts of food experiences you can choose to try.
No doubt what sets up a weekend is the quality of your accommodation and it doesn't come much better than the Marriott.
But the good thing is that Brisbane has many top-class hotels and, for the most part, plenty of rooms and good deals to choose from.
The advice is, don't leave bookings to the last minute.
If you are talking of the best, then you have to mention the brilliant Esquire Restaurant.
Yes, it will slightly sting the back pocket, but here was a dining experience you would die for.
It's a must for that special occasion.
Our wine waiter chose our matching wines and it was entertainment enough to listen to his overview of how and where the drop was made and why it matched our dishes.
The Regatta Hotel's opulent Walrus Bar supplied the chance to finish off the night on a high note.
It's an intriguing establishment seemingly chiselled out of the cellars of the old hotel.
If you enjoy rum with a difference, it's a special place to visit.
A Sunday stroll through the crowd at South Bank ended with a decadent stop at Gerard and Heather Gosens' Chocolate Moments on Albert St.
That topped off a weekend both to remember and also to recover from.
Yes, Brisbane is blossoming.
And you never know - one day I may be back and not just for a weekend.
* The writer was a guest of Brisbane Marketing.