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Published May 13th 2018
If I'm really honest, I have to admit that I didn't think Brisbane was going to be that much fun. We went because we wanted to enjoy some warm weather, to have a city break and for some girl time. What we discovered was a vibrant, sophisticated and cultured city filled with friendly faces, rooftop bars and wonderful food.
Brisbane wheel and city: view from Rydges South Bank, Brisbane
My friend and I booked a twin share hotel room at Rydges on Brisbane's South Bank and were upgraded to a balcony room with a river view. From here, we could see the City Cat charging up and down the river, delivering commuters to and from the city centre. The Queensland Art Gallery and GOMA were to our left, offering us a reminder that Brisbane is not just Brisvegas, all glitz but no substance. Quite the contrary, in fact. The art gallery and modern art museum were highly populated on the day we stopped in. The Brisbane Wheel, with the city buildings set on the other river bank, was in our direct line of sight and we had a clear view of Streets Beach, Australia's only inner-city, man-made beach, to our right.
Our first stop of the trip was the Soleil Pool Bar. Cocktails were served in jugs for Friday night drinks which suited us very well. The timber deck wraps around a small pool that entertained a couple of kids during the day but was not open for night swimming. Only a couple of floors up from street level, this bar has the feel of a rooftop bar as its open to the night air, but it lacks a sensational view of anything but traffic and concrete walls. There is a DJ to help focus the crowd inwards, but it took a while to get going on the night we visited.
The hotel room itself was fantastic. Two queen sized beds were made up, plumped up cushions enveloping us luxuriously whenever we lay our heads down. The room also had a comfortable sofa on which to relax and an armchair for reading or relaxing. The sheets were crisp and the beds and pillows comfortable and inviting.
There were TV options but we were too busy exploring the city to turn it on. If it's important to you, the TV does have the capacity to stream directly from your phone. Wifi is available and efficient.
The bathroom has an excellent walk-in shower with great water pressure. Shampoo and conditioner and little toiletries provided. Like most hotels these days, Rydges has an environmental policy, so if you want to, you can hang your towels up rather than receiving fresh ones every day. There is one strange thing in this stylish bathroom. The fixtures and tiles were luxurious but the hand basin is awkward, and our hands were constantly hitting the sides of the bowl as we tried to wash them. It was a confusing design flaw for such an established hotel group. Despite the bathroom not having an extractor fan, it did have a heated mirror so we were able to do our primping and preening, even after a hot shower. A hairdryer was supplied.
The mini bar in the room is well stocked and not too exorbitant. After a night out on the town, the two packets of chips were demolished in moments. We took our time with the half bottle of champagne.
One of the best parts of staying in a hotel is the buffet breakfast. This one had a good selection of eggs cooked how you like them, baked beans, mushrooms, bacon, cooked tomato sprinkled with herbs, etc. and a refrigerated section with fresh sliced fruit and yoghurt in a little pot sprinkled with sweet granola and a berry coulis. Cute individual serve bottles of juice (apple/orange) were a delight. To keep kids happy, there is a pancake machine, cereal, pastries, croissants and toast. The staff will make you a coffee but the product is weak - I'd suggest a double shot if you come from a coffee drinking city like Melbourne.
My only major complaint about the hotel is the room service. On the Saturday night, I was told there would be an hour's wait for my order. It was too long for me so I made my own hot chocolate from the mini bar. Of course, this is a first world problem but if you offer room service but can't provide it, this is a disappointment for your guests.
It's one of the true pleasures of travelling for me to order a hot chocolate from room service after I'm in bed. The fluff, the marshmallow, the decadence are all part of the fantasy. Finally, on Sunday night, it was possible. But, the hot choc arrived marshmallow-less and in a takeaway cup. Hardly a decadence, more a disposable cup, guilt-inducing environmental problem.
You must get a river view with a balcony - high up, so you can see over Brisbane. You're quite close to the Brisbane Wheel, you can see the art gallery, museum, to your left, upriver. And the South Bank beach, playground and gardens to your right. The buildings and Batman's Gotham City, reflect each other and it's really quite delightful to walk across the bridge to the lush botanical gardens and wander through the shaded paths. Brisbane locals make the most of their outdoor areas. It's heartening to see families picnicking on the river banks, riding their bikes and enjoying all that this burgeoning cosmopolitan city has to offer.