Agnes Caruso Photography

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Australian places – Brisbane

My city – Brisbane, the capital of the South-East Queensland is one of my favorite places. While you may think that its being so close to the ocean makes it a coastal city, that is not quite true. For the most part Brisbane is not really on the coast, although some of its suburbs are quite close. Brisbane is cut nearly in half by the Brisbane River, which starts at Mount Stanley in Queensland and ends in Moreton Bay.

 

One of the most amazing views from the river is the sight of flowering jacarandas and flame trees in the spring time. Purple and red flowers adore the riverbanks. This is probably the best time to take a cruise up the river to the Koala Sanctuary at Lone Pine, or one of other river cruises and view the beautiful colors. Jacarandas are in fact in many places in Brisbane, for example at the University of Queensland St. Lucia campus. A Jacaranda lane was created specially for people to come and see the amazing purple sea of flowers. It became the place to go just as azaleas in the National Arboretum in DC or lilacs in Boston. As soon as jacarandas flower, you know the summer is just around the corner.

Brisbane used to have very few bridges but in the last few years a few more were build in the CBD, with two of them only for pedestrians and cyclists, who seem to rule in the city center and not only. While we have our share of bad traffic jams, the improvements in public transport – both buses, ferries and rail, together with lots of cycling only roads make it all manageable. In fact you can walk or cycle along the river from the University of Queensland to the Queensland University of Technology at Garden Point, near the city, and beyond. In fact a few times this was the fastest way for me to get home from the city center.

A feature on the Goodwill Bridge is a Merlo Coffee cart stand so you can refuel while walking, jogging, running or cycling between the city and the Southbank. If I was to name one area in the city that I like to hang around it is the Southbank. And if you remember, after the World Expo Southbank was an empty deserted area with only wind and sand roaming around. The area got converted into beautiful parklands complete with an open beach and pools. A great place to go out, relax, have a meal, a drink, sit by the river. You can catch a ferry, train, bus or a theater performance.

If you are visiting the Southbank on a bike, there are public and free service stations, like the one above, where you can fix your bike or add extra air. Yes, it is new and it is convenient.

Yet I expect that a lot will change now after the coronavirus pandemic. And it will be quite a while before we can all go back to the normality we know. Hopefully, we will be able to continue enjoying the beauty and relaxation of the Southbank. Many of the above images come from my morning walk through the Southbank. It was quiet but it picked up later with people going to work, it got busy on the bridges but not so much along the river.

Early morning can be very beautiful, with the sun coming up above the horizon, raising from the ocean. While it is not so spectacular in the city it really is on the beaches and islands in Moreton Bay. So in the next post I will take you to my favorite place in the South-East Queensland – North Stradbroke Island. Place that offers peace and quiet, even in the summer time.

 

 


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Coffee – little coffee shops discovered in my travels

It seems that coffee is present everywhere. There are coffee shops, espresso bars in so many places that it is hard not to find one. Is coffee good or bad for us will not be discussed here, this is not the place or space for it, I leave that topic to others.

I just want to share some of the really great little spots I visited where coffee is really good. As any Australian I like my coffee strong and it has to have a taste that is not burned. So where are those little gems.

Let’s start in Brisbane – Merlo coffee is served in many spots, with a few of their own coffee shops. It is even on the Goodwill Bridge so you can get that ever important shot of coffee while strolling to work or riding your bike.

16187330482_aea41230a5_z   H04A8899  Da Capo, NYC

One of my favourite spots is Da Capo in New York. A small Italian coffee shop on Madison Avenue has that small perfect espresso, just what you need to pick you up in the morning or energize you during the day. You can match that with some of their pastries or sandwiches. The place is small but then so are many coffee shops in Italy.

On the opposite side of Manhattan there is another small coffee shop with good strong coffee – Ramini Coffee. They used to make fresh juices too but those days are unfortunately over. You can still get fresh juices and yogurts but they are ready made. Coffee, however, and pastries are great. One of the really nice things are mini-pastries.

La Colombe, PhillyWP_20151031_005 (2)In addition to individual coffee shops there are also local coffee shop chains much smaller than Starbucks and with much better coffee and much more personal service. One of such chains is La Colombe, it has unique charm and serves coffee in colorful cups in some of the stores. The first of their coffee shops I visited was in Philadelphia, right in the city center. Nice and spacious with quick service. The DC location is not as handy but that does not affect the coffee you get.

There are also some interesting options in Baltimore, with one of them being this time a French-style coffee shop – Café Poupon. They serve coffees in many different styles, pastries and sandwiches. Some of the pastries look so amazing you do not really know if you want to eat them or stare at them. Nice spot for breakfast or lunch, alternatively just for that coffee infusion.

 

WP_20160527_09_21_00_Rich (2) Kookaburra

While traveling further south into North Carolina, you can stop in Market Street Coffee and Ice Cream store in Chapel Hill to enjoy perfectly sized and tasting cappuccino.

Finally, the home of great coffee is in Florida, you can enjoy good coffees in many spots, but watch out for that sugar finding its way into your cup. Cuban coffee is frequently extremely sweet, so be very sure that you know what you are ordering. Strength is similar to Italian coffees though. Pastries are different and you will not find croissants or danishes as easily. However, there are Australians everywhere and Florida is not different, so there is a small Kookaburra coffee shop in St. Augustine, serving strong Australian coffee and Aussie scones to go with it.

Another great choice in Florida was an Argentinian Buenos Aires Cafe in Miami beach, good coffee and really amazing pastries.

InstagramCapture_67e4858d-e562-4a35-bf45-e532cc4966c4  New Orleans   

Then a place you cannot forget in the south, is Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans with its cafe au lait and beignets.

I have not been to many places on the west coast but one that picked my interest was La Parfait Paris in San Diego’s Gaslight district. A French patisserie with great breads, pastries and good strong coffee is nicely tucked away from the main streets. The location does not remind you of the Paris coffee shops but the taste is definitely there. They offer not only breakfasts but also make great lunchtime sandwiches.

The big challenge is to find a good coffee chop when you travel overseas. While going home to Australia presented little challenge as I already have my favorite spots not just in Brisbane but also in Sydney. A bigger challenge was finding this right spot in Canada. When traveling you frequently end up at one of the big chain stores like Starbucks or Tim Hortons, but you want something better and something unique. In Toronto, the unique is Balzac’s coffee. My favorite location is on Market Street. The slightly European décor makes it feel really cozy. The service is amazing, and early mornings are not very busy, so you can really enjoy your time. There is a little of everything for everyone, organic milk, home-made granola, pastries, coffees and teas. Just sit down and relax. The best part it is right opposite of the market so you can also get fresh and tasty fruit to get a healthy bite.

balzacs coffee  Balzacs lemon tart  Balzacs cappuccino

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